Release dates: May 1st 2012 (US), May 14th, 2012 (UK)
Running time: 45:51 minutes
Composer: David Julyan
Previous to David Julyan’s soundtrack for The Cabin in the Woods, I’d been unfamiliar with his work, yet having listened to it now, I feel I’ll be looking out for Inside I’m Dancing (2004), The Descent (2006) and Eden Lake (2008).
His effective use of orchestration and dynamics held me captivated from the very beginning. Admitting himself that he’s not a fan of the horror genre, maybe this has worked in his favour to create a musical score that is deep and atmospheric, yet also eerie and tense.
Combining traditional instrumentation with the use of Synthesizer in many of his works, the dark but surprisingly beautiful orchestral-electronic score for the film creates a sinister mood throughout, yet is a far cry from music in horror films from years gone by. It is almost ambient, yet delivers the scares at the points intended. It’s like some kind of Gothic soundscape.
Having seen the film, and being a music critic, I was highly alarmed when I sat down to listen to the soundtrack – why on earth had I not heard this while watching the film? Was the score that bland that it made no impact on me? Did it not progress and develop enough to keep me aware of it?
The answer to both is no. It was purely and simply ingenious orchestration that did what it was intended to do – accompany the film. It didn’t overpower with repetitive melodies or memorable themes to prepare us for what’s going to happen – a trait too often found in many horror films.
It opens with the appropriately titled In The Beginning…, setting the mood from the word go. It’s sinister, with a sweeping orchestral melody set over a blanket of electronic sounds, short in length at only 1:02 minutes, yet almost epic in a way.
It’s a teaser of what lies ahead. The Cabin In The Woods follows, just short of 2:00 in length. It’s a further development of the melodic material established previously, repetitive in form and although it doesn’t develop much throughout, the effective use of electronic sounds underscoring the main melody somehow captivated, and I found myself distracted from the melody and listening deeply to these sounds.
The Cabinets Will Have To Wait uses a simple repetitive staccato string melody, which quickens in pace and gives the piece sudden flow and movement. Syncopated percussion provides a clumsy, almost stumbling feel, whilst sharp stabs of instrumentation aid in keeping the listener on the edge of their seat.
Tracks such as We’re Not The Only Ones see the introduction of further traditional instruments, with an almost angelic piano melody at the beginning, and the introduction of electric guitar riffs later in the piece. The tension is built up towards the end through the use of a continuous string glissando, repetitive motifs and a huge crescendo of sound, both electronic and orchestral. Reverb is heavily, yet effectively, used to create a bigger sound, and add more tension.
I Thought There’d Be Stars begins much more orchestral, with a short yet sweet Cello melody. We see the return of the continuous string glissando and heavy reverb to create suspense. And also sudden percussion crashes. It was at this point I was drawn from the ambience and had to take a slight pause…
The score is animated throughout, and each electronic sound is different in terms of timbre, dynamic and impact – and this is what keeps the listener interested. I like the way the score develops little by little. The thematic material builds gradually, before we are thrown into jumbled periods of dissonance, piercing frenzies of instrumentation and fast paced rhythms, which create a feeling of desperation and panic, yet at the same time the score doesn’t go overboard and keeps a certain amount of subtleness.
It could quite easily be given to Alton Towers to theme their next major new attraction. It keeps you hooked, and in suspense as to where it may go next, even if it doesn’t always necessarily go there. I will most certainly be digging out my copy of The Descent now…
Phil is a 27-year-old classically trained musician from Sheffield with qualifications in Popular Music, Classical Music and a BA (Hons) in Creative Music Technology and Sound Recording. He likes nothing better than locking himself in the studio and composing music of all genres.
Phil became interested in composing after learning how to play the Cello and Clarinet at a young age, and has never looked back since. His favourite composer is Danny Elfman, whose unconventional harmonies and rhythms in scores such as Edward Scissorhands still manage to bring a tear or two to his eye.
You can find him on Twitter @PhilBlanckley.