Thursday, 16 July 2015

the vatican tapes - soundtrack review

the vatican tapes is an exorcism movie about a 27-year-old woman possessed by a demon that could be the devil himself. the only person who can prevent the total destruction of the world as we know it is a vatican priest played by michael pena. it’s like the exorcist turned up to eleven, and it sounds amazing.

the score is by joseph bishara, one of the most prominent and influential composers in the horror genre. his filmography reads like a list of the best horror movies of the last ten years, including insidious, the conjuring and dark skies. he also worked with darren lynn bousman on the score for 11-11-11 (which i reviewed here) and produced the music for bousman’s cult horror musicals the devil’s carnival and repo! the genetic opera. in addition to composing the music for horror films bishara also acts in them, having played supernatural creatures in both the conjuring and insidious.

from the opening track on the vatican tapes score, it’s clear why bishara has earned himself such a prestigious reputation. this is creepy, unsettling stuff; a mix of low piano tones and a cacophony of wind instruments with an ominous choral backing track, all building to an apocalyptic conclusion. bishara’s score does exactly what a good horror movie score is supposed to do – it suggests a sense of dread and creeping terror to accompany the dread and creeping terror onscreen. what is less common is a horror soundtrack that is this effective on its own. it’s impossible not to feel chills down the spine listening to bishara’s score. it sounds like music made my demons, like you’re listening to a band playing from the hottest nightclub in hell. there’s something otherworldly and supernatural about the music and it’s tremendously effective as a result.

it’s hard to pick out individual tracks because the score works so well as a whole piece, but the opening track, ‘the vatican tapes’, is certainly a highlight and sets a perfect tone. another standout is ‘drowning innocents’, one of the more creepy tracks on the album, with strings and eerie vocals building to truly terrifying crescendo before settling back down into something more subtle and equally unnerving. the final track on the album, ‘basement tapes’, reuses elements of the opening track but with a more ominous and climactic undertone.

overall, this is an impressive and really effective score from a renowned horror composer at the top of his game. the score works really well on its own and does a fantastic job implying dread and scares without you having the visuals to go with it. it's music you don’t want to listen to in the dark, unless you want to be really, really scared. if the film is even half as fear-inducing as bishara’s score then the vatican tapes is set to be one of the horror highlights of the year.

lakeshore records will release the vatican tapes – original motion picture soundtrack digitally on july 17th and on cd on august 14, 2015.  

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