Posted by Alan Rogers on October 13, 2011
Original Review by Alan Rogers
In 1998 Varese Sarabande released a “20th Anniversary Special Edition” version of John Carpenter’s score for Halloween that featured the original score tracks in chronological order. Carpenter’s minimal score for his own slasher horror film is rightly cited as being one of the most iconic scores in film scoring history. It’s a simple score, using piano, synth keyboards and a few electronic “stingers” at carefully chosen spots where the on-screen action required. The story goes that Carpenter decided to compose the score after his original idea to have no music in the film seemed to backfire – without music the film was just not that scary. Having just finished revisiting the original CD release of the score for a review, I was surprised by how different the two releases actually are. And, although the Special Edition release boasts an additional 20 minutes to its running time, this “20th Anniversary” version is a good example where more is not necessarily better.
First off, the good points. Heard here, the music is in chronological order (something that I usually like in a score presentation). Highlights here include “Halloween 1978”, “The Shape”, “Lock The Door” and “End Credits: Halloween Theme – Reprise”. The original release features cues that are edited together in a way that enhances the listening experience. The main result of this is that the tracks are relatively long and have a structure to them. Hearing the original tracks in film order in the “20th Anniversary” version changes the emphasis of the score. The tracks tend to be shorter and there is less of a reliance on the title theme – the last 14 minutes of the album (excluding the final “End Credits: Halloween Theme – Reprise”) does not feature this theme at all as the cat-and-mouse stalking of Jamie Lee Curtis’ character unfolds. Another plus point is the sound quality. Read the rest of this entry »
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Posted by Alan Rogers on October 10, 2011
Original Review by Alan Rogers
John Carpenter’s 1978 film Halloween is a very effective, low-budget “slasher” horror film set in suburban America. Psychotic murderer Michael Myers escapes from a state mental institution 15 years after murdering his sister, and returns to his hometown where he continues on his killing spree. Babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is unaware of the peril she is about to be in as Myers’ focuses his attention on her. Although the plot is simple the film itself is expertly realised and regularly features in “Greatest Films…ever” lists (the film was selected in 2006 by the US National Film Registry as being a film that is “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”). Part of the film’s success can be put down to John Carpenter’s own iconic score for the film.
The centrepiece of Halloween is Carpenter’s memorable title theme. It is heard in full in the first cue “Halloween Theme – Main Title” and then again a number of tracks including “Shape Escapes” and “Loomis and Shape’s Car”. As with a lot of themes simple is best, but listening closer it’s surprising how much complexity there actually is contained within the theme. The basis of the theme is a repetitive ten-beat pattern (1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2) that acts as the propulsive bedrock on top of which a repeating 3-note motif (the actual theme?) is placed. These ostinato patterns set up an uneasy tension and variation in the theme is created with various pitch changes. The additional layering of ascending synth strings raises the tension even more. Carpenter’s Halloween theme appears to be associated with Michael Myers’ character (“The Shape”) giving him a emotionless, relentless quality that is important for a character whose face you cannot see. Carpenter injects surprises, shocks and horror not with the theme itself but with additional embellishments of the music such as the addition of synth stingers whenever something shocking happens on the screen (e.g., “Shape Escapes”) and by careful placement of when the theme begins and ends in the film. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Reviews | Tagged: film music, film score, Halloween, John Carpenter, Reviews, Soundtracks | 3 Comments »