Intrada records have announced the premiere release of composer John Beal’s impressive score for the 1981 Universal horror film The Funhouse. Although the film capitalizes on the horror craze started by the likes of Halloween several years earlier, it did not follow suit in its approach to scoring. Whereas the earlier film featured a legendary electronic score, executive producer Mace Neufeld insisted that a largely orchestral approach was warranted. The orchestra mixed with some electronics brings a sophisticated depth to this early entry in the slasher film genre. While the score starts in a very unassuming fashion that involves a simple piccolo solo which is the initial representation of the core of the composer’s central theme, the mood quickly alters as a searing orchestral stab slices through the piccolo performance stopping it in its tracks and changing the mood from subdued to harrowing in a second. The score reaches its climax in a full-blown passacaglia of sorts, and as the action in the funhouse comes to a head the composer realises and employs a macabre carousel theme that is alluring and unsettling, which he presents in varying arrangements, in the form of a march and a waltz. It is a soundtrack that purveys a chaotic aura and at times has to it a richness that we associate with movies from the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Fans of the horror/slasher genre embraced the score, and it has remained on many wants lists around the world for decades. For the release, Intrada obtained the original 24-track session elements stored at Universal, allowing the composer to oversee a new mix, highlighting details and a stereo image never before heard.
In the film, teen Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) sneaks out to a traveling carnival with her date, Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), her best friend, Liz (Largo Woodruff), and Liz’s boyfriend, Richie (Miles Chapin). Reluctantly she goes along with their plan to hide overnight in the carnival funhouse. When the four teens witness a murder while locked inside, they become the targets of a shady barker (Kevin Conway) and his monstrous son (Wayne Doba). The film was directed by Tobe Hooper, best known for The Texas ChainsawMassacreand Poltergeist.
In some ways Beal’s score evokes the style of Jerry Goldsmith as in his scores for Planet of the Apes, and The Omen, and in certain key areas the music of Italian Maestro Pino Donaggio comes to mind, Don’t Look Now being at the top of that list. It is a classic horror soundtrack and one that should have been released years ago. Thanks to Intrada we can at last savour the glorious and relentless tones, passages, and motifs that John Beal created for the movie. Its overall style and musical persona certainly do not sound like many of the horror scores from the 1980’s. The mix of symphonic and synthetic being seamless thus fashioning a harrowing yet at the same time thematic work. Recommended.
Recently I have been looking hard and listening intently to film scores that have been realized via electronic means. When film scoring started to become a medium that was not always fully symphonic, I have to admit to being somewhat blinkered and unaccepting of any score that was not performed by conventional as we call it now instrumentation. However in recent decades synths and electronics have improved vastly and become so superior that it is at times very difficult to separate live performances from synthetic renditions. This week Intrada records released an expanded edition of Jay Chattaway’s score for the Stephen King penned horror Silver Bullet. I still have the original Varese Sarabande LP record in my collection, and have longed for the composer’s score to be released in full, Intrada as always have once again stepped up to the mark and produced a wonderful edition of this score, the composer adding texture, colour, and a deep sense of apprehension and foreboding to an already tense and fearsome storyline. Things may have improved as in technical areas since this movie and its score were released, but this in my opinion is one of the best horror scores of the 1980’s. It is also a score that many contemporary composers look at to gain inspiration and also to emulate Chattaway’s innovative style.
Disabled pre-teen Marty Coslaw is convinced he knows who – or what – is behind the numerous grisly murders happening in his small hometown in Maine. Running around in his motorized wheelchair, given to him by his alcoholic Uncle Red and christened the Silver Bullet, Marty seeks proof of the existence of werewolves. Needing convincing are Marty’s loving but frustrated sister, his mom, the town Sheriff, the reverend and especially Uncle Red. One of those individuals is indeed a bona fide werewolf. Stephen King’s tale melds terror with friendship in equal quantities in the 1985 shocker, which also includes tinges of family nostalgia tucked behind the jumps, shocks and scares. Composer Jay Chattaway anchors his score around a highly melodic major-key theme that he wrote to accompany the Silver Bullet, this theme plays both in scenes with Marty on the move and in the end, serves as a freewheeling vocal. Another more emotional element of the score comes with a minor-key theme, which is more a series of chords, that the composer layers and subtly weaves into the storyline that has to it a sense of melancholy and brings a bittersweet reverberation to key points in the movie, it is particularly noticeable when Marty’s sister seeks evidence supporting his claims and, becomes a highlight, when Uncle Red has another Silver Bullet prepared, which this time is the variety that one loads into a weapon. These quieter moments are complimented by a handful of more intense and harrowing sounding cues that the composer utilises to support and lead into the mysterious and gruesome killings.
These more action led moments include some feisty and edgy sounding chase cues, that reach their peak in a showdown between Marty and Uncle Red vs. the Werewolf. The score I think encompasses many styles it is without a doubt an inventive work, that is composed for both the symphonic and the synthetic elements. The symphonic performances combining with the synths or at times on their own to create interconnected and at times attractive thematic material, which the composer using throughout to weave a consistent and rewarding sound. This edition of the score from Intrada is a an expanded one, and is also remastered to a high standard from the original three-channel stereo mixes made by Alec Head in April & May 1985 at The Carriage House. John Takis provides easy to read and informative notes, whilst Kay Marshall has designed some strong packaging with a flipper-style booklet cover. This is an Intrada Special Collection CD and is available while quantities and interest remain. Highly recommended.
Released in 2012, SHIVER is based upon the novel of the same name and is a thriller/serial killer movie which at times hits the mark but for the most part falls short of its target. The main problem for the film not delivering is that the script is just not worthy of the actual book, with a number of the characters being presented as either incompetent cops or rather boring and flat individuals with no real character. The musical score by veteran composer Richard Band is probably the best thing about the production, with Band delivering a suitably chilling and on the edge sounding score that has some nice set themes throughout, but for the most part is what one would expect for a film such as this. Band is known for his work on relatively low budget movies and I have to say that he always amazes me getting the results he does on these somewhat lean budgets. The score is a combination of both the symphonic and the electronic, but as per usual Mr Band is able to fuse the two mediums together with consummate ease. At times I was reminded of the style of Jerry Goldsmith when he was involved on movies such as BASIC INSTINCT, it has that kind of steamy, sultry air to it that is tinged with an aura or hint of sensuality. There are also however present fragments of past Richard Band scores such as THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM there is a definite presence of that particular theme within the score for SHIVER, albeit a slower tempo arrangement also a glimpse of styles employed in movies such as THE ALCHEMIST and THE CALLER.
The composer manages to create a score that is entertaining to listen to as a stand-alone piece as well as being a strong and supportive component of the movie and although a lot of the music is what many would call atonal, it is still interesting and entertaining. The composer making good use of driving strings and imposing and tense sounding brass flourishes. Which can be heard within cues such as PRISON BUS BREAK, WENDY GRABS THE GUN and THE OFFICE MASSACRE. The soundtrack also includes a handful of songs, which are all at the end of the recording, the first of which also acts as the END TITLES (TWILIGHT GREEN) and begins as an instrumental but after the initial introduction which is apprehensive and menacing, segues into a laid back vocal performance by an uncredited female singer, the song reminded me a lot of SUGAR IN THE RAIN from the movie STILLETTO it has that kind of sweet and too good to be true sound, but saying this is easy on the ear and pleasant enough, oddly the song then reverts back to the instrumental score and again we hear a threatening and tense style employed by Band.
Other songs include YOU MADE ME LOVE YOU, WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE THE MOON, AFTER YOUV’E GONE all performed by the same vocalist and are jazz influenced, with the final cue being an instrumental which again is jazz orientated entitled POOR BUTTERFLY all pleasant enough to listen to but a little out of kilter with the main score. An interesting score, check it out, Its on INTRADA.
Wendy Views The Necklace
Gryphon’s Playground Flashback
Gryphon Attacks Wendy
Recalling The Event
The Shack No. 1
Wendy Rests In Police Station
Here We Go
Road To The Shack
The Shack No. 2
Entering The Shack
Wendy Grabs The Gun
Searching The Apartment
His Show Of Heads
The Saw And Fight For Life
Delgado Finds Wendy In Shack
The Prison Bus Break
The Office Massacre
Wendy Approaches The Gryphon
End Titles (Twilight Green)
You Made Me Love You
We’ll Always Have The Moon
After You’ve Gone
Cast your minds back just a couple of years ago to a film called BIG BAD WOLVES, the movie contained a very good score by composer Frank Ilfman, since then the composer has been working steadily and has just recently written the music to ABULELE. Now this is somewhat removed from the dark themes of BIG BAD WOLVES but still the composer has created a score that is wonderfully lyrical, powerfully emotive and without a doubt exciting and adventurous. The ABULELE are ancient monsters which are about the size of a grizzly bear, by all accounts they are fierce and dangerous but when Adam a ten year old meets one a friendship blossoms and when the special forces arrive in town to capture the creature Adam decides to help. It’s a amiable yarn and one that also entertains children of all ages. (even if they are over 40). Composer Frank Ilfman creates a powerful and at the same time melodiously delicate and fragile sounding work in places, but saying this the composer also treats us to sweeping and soaring themes that evoke memories of the work of the late Jerry Goldsmith and also made this listener recall the early work of John Williams, this is what I would call an old fashioned Hollywood soundtrack, by this I mean it actually contains infectious and melodic material that has substance and direction, there is a slightly impish or cheeky persona present throughout and the composer seems to build upon this element to give us a score that not only enhances perfectly the images on screen but is also able to entertain away from those images and stand alone as just music to be listened too and savoured and ultimately enjoyed and returned to. Written for what sounds like a large orchestra the composer utilises the string section to great effect and underlines and bolsters this with percussion and brass. I think the best way to describe Ilfman’s score to ABULELE is to say that it is a modern day E.T. filled to overflowing with driving themes, which are of the action, romantic, poignant and melancholy variety. It has an almost childlike ambience to it, innocent, playful but also vulnerable, this I think is reflected in the short but effective PROLOGUE, which is melodious and comfortable in its sound and style. Track number two FIRST ENCOUNTER however, is rather different, the composer creating a fast paced and more urgent sound that is fast paced and quite frantic. Brass and percussion take the lead in this particular cue and soon establish a commanding and vibrant prominence. Track three THE CREATURE, is where I think the Goldsmith sound first raises its head, a lilting and pleasant theme which is a fusion of symphonic and electronic begins to establish itself and what starts out as a subdued piece suddenly erupts into something more ominous, brass flourishes are driven along by percussive elements which reminded me slightly of GREMLINS with pizzicato strings setting down a background that acts as punctuation to woodwind.
Track number four also evokes a sound that is not dissimilar to that of Jerry Goldsmith A STORY ABOUT A MONSTER has an underlying atmosphere that seems to be telling us all is not quite right here, but at the same time it is calm, but soon becomes more action orientated with brass stabs being punctuated and underlined by forceful sounding percussion in the last moments of the cue. One of the highlight cues from the score for me is track number 12, WE WILL HUNT IT DOWN, it has just about everything in it, subdued and melancholy nuances, delicate and light personas, melodic and haunting hints, plus we can hear that this is going to build into something that is special, the composer sets the stage perfectly and dramatically, gradually working towards what becomes a maser class in how to create tension, the taught and apprehensive atmosphere becoming almost unbearable, until in the final minute or so of the cue we hear the string section rising and bringing to the composition just a fleeting glimpse of a more lush sounding theme. ABULELE the score is in my humble opinion something that everyone should own, it has the film music WOW factor, luscious, emotional, dramatic, entertaining and highly rewarding. So what are you waiting for, order it now from Intrada.
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