EL LIBRO DE LILA (LILA’S BOOK) – Juan Andrés Otálora

Lila is a character who falls out of a children’s book and ends up trapped in the human world. That’s the premise that opens El Libro de Lila (Lila’s Book), a 2017 animated feature film from Columbia. Lila realizes that the only person who can help her return to her world is the owner of the book. But he has grown up, has given up reading and – more importantly – has lost his childhood sense of wonder. Lila must convince him of her predicament so that he will help her on a journey to return her to the book before she disappears and is forgotten forever. The score is by LA-based Colombian composer, Juan Andrés Otálora whose credits to date include music written for several short films and additional music credits in TV shows such as Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny.

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8 DAYS (8 TAGE) – David Reichelt

8 Days (8 Tage) is an 8-episode German apocalyptic sci-fi mini-series where a 60-kilometre wide asteroid/meteor is on a collision course with Earth. American attempts to neutralize the threat have failed and Europe is in line to be completely wiped out by the impact. The drama focuses on the final days in the lives of a normal German family and the final countdown is interspersed with flashbacks to fill out the protagonists’ backstories.

German composer David Reichelt has provided the music for the SKY Germany drama, combining a textural sonic landscape with beautiful soprano vocals that, separated from the visuals, takes on the qualities of a 50-minute tone poem that works surprisingly well as a stand-alone listen. It’s Reichelt’s vocal compositions that leaves a lasting impression. Mesmerizingly sung by sopranist Caroline Adler, liturgical texts offer a stark contrast to the electronica. The opening “Eight Days”, with its combination of vocals and church-organ styled keyboards, gives a religious feel to the score. “Freedom” and “Passion” are tracks with strong performances from Adler and feels like a timeless arias. Adler’s vocals become more aggressive in tracks such as “Trafficker” and “Hostage” where a punchier, rhythmic delivery adds variety to the use of the human voice. A breathier version of this rhythmic vocal in “Abortion” weirdly echoes the patterned breathing sometimes encouraged during labour and childbirth. In all cases, Adler’s ethereal vocals are sympathetically underscored by the composer’s enveloping soundscapes: meandering synth washes or delicate pulsing electronic rhythms. [Read more…]

THE MUSTANG – Jed Kurzel

The Mustang tells the story of the inmate of a Nevada prison who is placed onto a program to train captured wild horses. Despite the movie covering a subject that is open to clichéd story-telling – the movie is even described as the protagonist “must learn to tame not only the mustang but also the beast within” – director and co-writer Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre has apparently side-stepped such well-worn paths and made a movie that has been received well by critics.

The score is written by Australian-born composer Jed Kurzel, who has written an arresting score featuring a small ensemble of musicians, particularly strings. The close-miked nature of the instruments (which also includes percussion and acoustic guitar) gives the score a powerful presence and showcases the various musical ideas Kurzel has fashioned. [Read more…]

OS PRÍNCIPES – Gustavo Jobim

Os Príncipes (The Princes), directed by Luiz Rosemberg Filho, is a 2018 drama set in Brazil that follows two men driving around Rio de Janeiro at night to alleviate their boredom. They are looking for sex and violence and pick up a couple of prostitutes to accompany them and help satisfy their needs. The award-winning music is composed by Gustavo Jobim who landed the job because he was working on a score for director Filho’s recently discovered movie, Imagens do Silêncio (1973), and the director felt there were similarities between the two movies. Jobim has come up with a bleak and oppressive score for what looks like an equally bleak and oppressive movie, with the music focusing on the use of unforgiving and somewhat aggressive electronics.

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BAGMAN – Denis Delcroix

Dripping full of Deadpool references (e.g., breaking the ‘fourth wall’, numerous jokes), Bagman is a 2018 Canadian comedy horror feature film. The character of Bagman wears a brown paper bag on his head and spends his time going round the neighbourhood killing anyone too careless or lazy at recycling plastic. Yep! It’s a movie that appears to have zero budget and it shows in its look and feel. To be honest, it’s a pretty bad movie but it’s admirable in terms of the filmmaker’s enthusiasm for the project and the overall vision. Part of that vision was for the movie to feature an 80s synth score and they turned to Frenchman Denis Delcroix, who brought his extensive experience of experimenting and using vintage synths to create an energetic soundtrack that somehow works remarkably well in the film and is a great little listen as an album.

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Writer/director/editor Mark Stirton’s 2018 horror/thriller, Dark Highlands, isn’t going to feature in any forthcoming Scottish Tourist Board promotional video. The film tells the story of an unnamed Japanese artist on a visit to the Scottish Highlands to paint its wonderful scenery. But he becomes the target of ‘The Gamekeeper’, a psychopathic and sadistic masked and goggled killer. Isolated in the now-threatening Scottish landscape he must find a way to survive. Dark Highlands is particularly interesting as it contains little dialogue, relying heavily on the actions (and reactions) of the characters to drive the movie’s plot forward.

The orchestral score is written by composer, Jon Brooks, who has used familiar tropes of the genre to help support the narrative and provide mood for scenes. [Read more…]


Mongolian Death Worm is a SyFi Original TV movie from 2010 where an American oil company is carrying out experimental test drillings in the deserts of Mongolia. They disturb a nest of giant ravenous worms and the creatures set off on a breeding and killing spree. A treasure hunter who is trying to find the tomb of Genghis Khan seems to be the only person who can stop them.

The unenviable task of scoring Mongolian Death Worm is Turkish-born composer Emir Işılay who, with a quick look at the composer’s credits reveals, is no stranger to composing music for SyFy movies. I am not familiar with anything else Işılay has written but he seems to have been completely uninspired by this movie. After hearing some promising solo strings and catchy ostinato patterns in the “Main Theme”, the score descends into a series of aimless and meandering tracks dominated by strings. [Read more…]