Tuesday, 27 October 2015

tales of halloween - soundtrack review...

tales of halloween is an anthology film featuring segments directed by modern-day masters of horror, including neil marshall, adam gierasch and jace anderson, darren lynn bousman and mike mendez among others. what’s unique about the film is that the producers took the same portmanteau approach to the score, with each segment utilising the talents of a different composer. the result is a soundtrack album that combines a number of different sounds and styles.

there is a really interesting combination of composers on this album, from legendary icons to contemporary standouts. the album opens with a title track from the great lalo schifrin who composed the score for films like bullitt, enter the dragon and the iconic mission impossible theme. another standout name on the album is christopher drake, perhaps best known for his work on d.c. animated features like the dark knight returns, but also composer of the score for the arkham origins videogame. then there are tracks from joseph bishara who worked on the conjuring and the vatican tapes. the listing also includes a track from sean spillane, who previously worked on the amazing soundtrack for lucky mckee’s the woman. in addition, there are also tracks from michael sean colin (killjoy goes to hell), christian henson (triangle, severance), bobby johnston (mother’s day, king of the ants), jimmy psycho (the jimmy psycho experiment), edwin wendler (unnatural), and austin wintory (grace).

as a standalone album, the tales of halloween soundtrack is a predictably mixed affair, with some tracks certainly standing out against the others. in a way, an anthology album exemplifies the central issue that has always plagued the anthology film and while there may be a common theme it’s tough to make different stories, styles and approaches work as a consistent whole. it doesn’t help that one of the two of the tracks don’t sound particularly horror-centric, like johnston’s track the night billy raised hell which morphs into an upbeat, pop-folk tune by the end reminiscent of david hess’s seminal soundtrack for the last house on the left. it’s a cool musical reference (eli roth also used some of hess’s music in cabin fever) but it’s a stark contrast to the other tracks on the album. sean spillane’s track ding dong suffers a similar awkward contrast, which is unfortunate because it’s a cool track and i love spillane’s soundtrack for the woman. then there’s wintory’s morricone-esque western theme for the weak and the wicked, which again feels like it doesn’t belong here although it’s a really great track in isolation. in some ways, the contrasting styles aren’t so much of an issue, but it makes it hard to make this album the background music at a halloween party and that seems like a missed opportunity given the subject matter.

that said, there are some really fantastic tracks on the album, with schifrin’s title track being one of the best. on the basis of that track alone, i’d be happy to see tales of halloween adapted into a tv series, in the style of something like tales from the crypt. as always, bishara brings the real scares with two typically unsettling tracks, trick and friday the 31st. i think he may be the most effective horror composer working in the field right now, although his music is tough to listen to out of context. wendler makes some interesting decisions with his track, limbchoppalooza, which sounds like the soundtrack to a 50s b-movie directed by roland emmerich. henson’s track, bad seed, has a real 80s feel, kind of like carpenter but it also really reminded me of fred myrow and malcolm seagrave’s score for phantasm. jimmy psycho’s closing number is a great way to end the album and feels like the perfect halloween party song.

some of the tracks do feel a bit derivative, and unfortunately four of these are all from the same composer. drake’s track sweet tooth is suitably haunting, but rather generic. similarly, the ransom of rusty rex, is unfortunately a little underwhelming, but he does pull it back with his third and fourth tracks, its not a fucking kid and he will never leave you, both of which have elements of herrman. henson’s track, grim grinning ghost, sounds like an approximation of burton-era elfman, if a bit darker in places. colin’s track, this means war, also sounds a bit elfman-esque, although at the same time reminded me a little of goth singer-songwriter voltaire.

in a way, the tales of halloween soundtrack needs to be either more consistent or even more contrasting and diverse, when it actually falls somewhere in the middle. that said, there is a lot to like on this album and if you enjoy horror soundtracks there will be something for you here.

aleph records released the tales of halloween - original motion picture soundtrack exclusively on itunes on october 23, 2015

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