CRUSHED – Aaron Kenny

Original Review by Alan RogersCrushed

Australian mystery thriller Crushed (2015), written and directed by Megan Riakos, stars Sarah Bishop as a young woman (Ellia) who returns to the family vineyard in rural New South Wales after her father is crushed by a barrel in a freak accident. However, when it is discovered her father’s death may not have been accidental, suspicion falls on members of her family. Ellia becomes increasingly isolated as she searches for clues to solving her father’s death. The score is written by Australian-born composer Aaron Kenny, whose previous works include scores for both film and television, as well as works for musical theatre and the concert hall. Kenny’s score is predominantly moody and atmospheric with little obvious thematic material and relies mainly on the strings of the US-based Youngstown Scoring Orchestra to establish the feel of the score. The composer also uses piano which seems to be a focus for the emotional aspects of the score at key moments of the film.

The score opens with the short track, “Terroir Dream”, where the importance of the strings in establishing the mood of the score is set out immediately. A low, sustained tone in the strings generates immediate tension and the composer then overlays a mournful low strings motif. Straight away the listener is forced to be wary of what’s about to unfold. (Interestingly, a glass harmonica makes a fleeting appearance, perhaps a subtle nod to the film’s setting at a vineyard. It’s a device the composer uses once or twice elsewhere in the score: “Growing Tenderness”, “Killer Confessions”.) The use of solo low strings phrases is an important aspect of the score. Heard over tremolo strings or during suspense tracks, cues such as “The Harvest” and “The Crush” have an anguished feel to them which is created in no small part to the use of these low string passages. The moody string basis in many of the tracks (further examples include “Zac’s Regret” and “Searching For Clues”) is countered somewhat when the composer lightens their tone (i.e., playing them in a higher register) to create a welcome uplift to the score.  This also gives the score a more reflective feel; perhaps reflecting happier occasions. “Fly To Mudgee”, “Vineyard Walk” and “Remembering Adam” certainly give a more optimistic tone to the score and this is aided by the appearance of the piano. The piano is used with subtlety, helping with the reflective feel of the aforementioned tracks, but also emphasising the sombre mood in tracks such as “Zac’s Regret” and “Searching For Clues” and reinforcing feelings of loss and regret (“Dad’s Shirt”).

“Evidence Room” marks the beginning of a number of suspense tracks grouped in the middle of the album’s running time. Seemingly scoring the investigations being carried out by Ellia, synths create a level of creepiness and menace through the use of low-range rumbling tones, sparse textures and various electronic effects. “Flat Tyre” is a particularly effective example of how the composer uses various synth effects to create the desired sense of uneasiness. Action scoring in Crushed comes mainly in the second half when the various strands of the story begin to come together. The action is propelled mainly by driving string ostinato patterns (e.g., “Searching For Clues”, “Wine Bible”). Although not very adventurous, these propulsive patterns are a welcome change from the meanderings and tension of the score up to this point. The use of ostinato continues towards the climax of both film and score with the final few tracks exhibiting a series of string ostinato patterns punctuated with a number of passages where soundscape textures offer relief to the heightening drama. “Vineyard Finale” adds various percussion elements to the string ostinato patterns to highlight the impending resolution of the story. The final score track, “Killer Confessions”, offers a breather to the action and closes with a musical “sting in the tail” that hints that things may not be completely resolved in the story. The album closes with the song “Washed Away”, a song previously released in 2013 and sung by Tiger Darrow.

Aaron Kenny’s score for Crushed doesn’t overextend on its ambitions. Strings, piano, percussion and a sprinkling of synths come together to provide a strong musical narrative. Dark moods, lighter and more personal moments, tension and action are all here. But, overall, there is something missing that means that this is not as rewarding as it could have been. Listening to it again, I would probably cut about 15-20 minutes from the original running time as there’s a lot of repetition. I haven’t seen the film but I would imagine that the score’s tone doesn’t overwhelm (at least up until the film’s climactic scenes) what is essentially a family-centred drama. The musicians of the Youngstown Scoring Orchestra play well and the recording is clear and crisp. It’s well worth seeking out and I look forward to hearing the composer’s future projects.

Crushed is available to purchase at the usual online digital outlets and audio clips can be heard HERE.

Rating: **½

  1. Terroir Dream (0:53)
  2. Fly Into Mudgee (1:14)
  3. Heavy News (1:07)
  4. Zac’s Regret (2:14)
  5. Evidence Room (1:17)
  6. The Scene of The Crime (2:56)
  7. Dad’s Shirt (1:46)
  8. Vineyard Walk (0:53)
  9. Remembering Adam (1:59)
  10. The Harvest (0:54)
  11. Flat Tyre (2:42)
  12. Taking Action (0:48)
  13. Let Her Drink Wine (0:51)
  14. Searching For Clues (3:02)
  15. Growing Tenderness (1:06)
  16. The Crush (1:41)
  17. The Wool Shed (2:24)
  18. Back To An Empty House (1:40)
  19. Wine Bible (1:38))
  20. All Tied Up (3:41)
  21. Vineyard Finale (2:14)
  22. Killer Confessions (2:44)
  23. Washed Away (End Titles) (sung by Tiger Darrow) (4:57)

Running Time: 44:50

Crushed Film Pty Ltd. (2016)


  1. CineMuse says:

    Interesting commentary on the score; what impressed me what the amount of silence which added greatly to the tension. Drop in for a read of my review if interested.

    • Thanks for taking the time to read my review and for your comment. I enjoyed your review of the film. I need to work on reducing the length of my reviews to something similar to your own. But I always end up finding a lot to write about.

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