Ya know what? I love soundtracks.
And one of the (many) things that sets our beloved horror genre apart from other genres of film is the ambitious and radical music that usually accompanies our fright filled movies. 2013 was a strong, strong year for horror, but more than anything, there was a huge resurgence in horror soundtracks, in particular on vinyl. Seriously… HUGE. Thanks to companies like Death Waltz, Waxwork, Mondo and One Way Static, we’re got a healthy number of classic horror movie scores coming at us on a regular basis. But for this particular piece, I wanted to focus on modern soundtracks, in particular my 5 favorites of 2013. All of my selections were movies that I loved primarily because the tunes I heard in them elevated the material to the point where I can’t imagine any of these movies without their music. I’m sure I’ll be missing a few, but at the moment, these are the 5 I currently can’t stop listening to!
5 – THE CONJURING by Joseph Bishara
I feel like if you listen to composer Joseph Bishara’s earlier work on films like INSIDIOUS or DARK SKIES, or even earlier than that with THE GRAVEDANCERS, you’d agree that he’s the master of the subtle, ambient & slowly unnerving horror score. His music is always just bubbling under the surface and then when you least expect it, you get hit with a killer stinger. (Pun intended.) To me, one of the most terrifying things in INSIDIOUS for example, is the screeching strings during the title! And that’s pretty much before the damn movie has even started! For THE CONJURING, more of his melodic side is brought forward and I love that. It reminds me of some of the more ambient stuff Charles Bernstein did for the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. It’s lush and unsettling and helps add to the overall mood and tone of the film, while building toward the scares. I’ve got a CD of this one, but am hoping that a vinyl release will happen in 2014. Sample the score for yourself below:
4 – STOKER by Clint Mansell
I’ve gotten a lot of flack for not putting Park Chan-wook’s latest film (which is indeed a masterpiece) in my top 10 horror films of the year. I’ve already defended my rationale that A – I would’ve liked it more than his previous films if it were an all Korean cast instead of Hollywood regulars and B – I consider it more of a mystery/thriller rather than a pure “horror” film. But whatever, for my favorite horror soundtracks of the year, I’m considering it horror. Although I may be (and probably am) wrong in all of the above, the one thing I can wholeheartedly say is that the music in STOKER is suburb and among the best of any film of any genre this past year. The man behind this score is Clint Mansell. He comprises the majority of his score with lush and gorgeous melodies, which in turn compliment the films’ gorgeous cinematography. There’s also a few tracks with singer Emily Wells & her contributions, along with some of the overall electronic sounds through out the entire soundtrack give it a Bjork: Homogenic-era vibe. Plus a Philip Glass piano contribution on here as well?! This soundtrack in unique and classy.
3 – ROOM 237 by Jonathan Snipes & William Hutson
Here’s one of the most interesting discoveries of my year. I didn’t love Rodney Ascher’s documentary ROOM 237, which boasts a series of crazy conspiracies and hidden meanings behind Stanley Kubrick’s heralded classic THE SHINING. I did like it a lot. I just didn’t buy a lot of the far fetched theories people were coming up with. However, the one thing I can’t deny is the original music created for the doc. And it’d been so long since I’d seen the actual movie that I pretty much blind-bought Death Waltz Recording’s vinyl release of it because of the beautiful packaging. For whatever reason (I’m guessing rights issues maybe?), the vinyl itself only contains 7 tracks from the soundtrack, but the release also comes packaged with a CD containing the full 14 tracks from the soundtrack. And once I popped that CD on, I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. The sounds created by Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson are part Goblin, a touch of vintage John Carpenter, and reminiscent of Jeremy Schmidt’s work on BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW. I hope that companies like Death Waltz will consider including either CD’s or digital download versions of their soundtracks for future releases. The ROOM 237 package was a pleasant surprise!
2 – KISS OF THE DAMNED by Steven Hufsteter
Talk about one sexy movie, KISS OF THE DAMNED also sports an equally (if not more so) sexy soundtrack! All I could think as I was watching the narrative debut from Xan Cassavetes was that I hope this soundtrack would be available on vinyl. And thankfully, it did come out in that format in the fall. It’s a great mix of tradition score by Steven Hufsteter nd songs by bands like HTRK and Der Fluch. Just listen to the beautiful “love theme” embedded below. It sets a great tone for the overall film. And then there’s traditional rock tracks . I listen to this one quite frequently that it was so close to being my favorite soundtrack of 2013, but that honor goes to…
1 – MANIAC by Rob
That’s right. We can not deny the power of Rob’s score for the MANIAC remake, which I think took all of us by surprise. I still recall seeing a screening of this on the big screen surrounded by fellow horror fans and journalists and all of us being blown away by the unexpected opening sequence. Once the title MANIAC comes on the screen in giant bold red letters, we knew we were in good hands with director Franck Khalfoun and producer Alexandre Aja. And a few seconds after that, my earlier suspicions were confirmed. Holy crap, the 80’s style synth music to this movie is freakin’ amazing! It drives the already ambitious film forward swiftly and gives it a cool pulse. Naturally, I bought this one the day it became available on iTunes. Then again when Mondo put out the vinyl. And one more time when Death Waltz put it out as well. I can’t get enough of this score. And if you haven’t seen the actual movie yet, it’s currently on Netflix Instant. Queue it up, but be sure to turn the speakers up loud.
Notable mention, I rather liked the score that Marco Beltami did for WORLD WAR Z. And although I haven’t seen it yet, I hear the music Cliff Martinez did for ONLY GOD FORGIVES is good too. In terms of non-horror, Hans Zimmer takes the cake with his MAN OF STEEL score, probably my favorite of the year.
What soundtracks and scores have you guys been grooving to? Sign off below!