Original Review by Alan RogersAnd the devil makes three

I know very little about a small independent film, And The Devil Makes Three, other than what the scant information I found on IMDB says about it. Written and directed by Samantha Friend and Doug Murman, the movie premiered at the recent North Hollywood CineFest and follows two friends “…tasked with packing up the belongings of a deceased grandmother…[they]…venture to a house nestled deep in the woods. Isolated from the outside world, strange noises, lights in the forest, and mysterious locals plague the pair as they begin to wonder if something else may be lurking in the woods at night.” From what little I have discovered, and from viewing the trailer, And The Devil Makes Three seems like your typical haunted house film where a couple of unsuspecting types are holed up in a house (or cabin) where “things happen.” The movie has an original score by NE†HERWORLD.

As with the film, there’s very little information to be found about NE†HERWORLD. Friend and Murman’s production company website mentions that one of their goals is to make movies that have been influenced by established horror movie styles and iconic film directors of the genre. As part of this, they want to create original music for their films and I am assuming that Friend and Murman are somehow a part of NE†HERWORLD. John Carpenter is cited as a one of their key influences and this is clear from And The Devil Makes Three’s score. Nods to scores such as Carpenter’s The Fog and Assault On Precinct 13 are the most obvious when listening to the score. I am a big fan of Carpenter’s scores of the 80s and, from my own perspective, I like those reminders of great synth scores from that era. And it’s the 80s synth style that’s the driving force behind this score and what makes it such an enjoyable listen.

To start and the end, the final track features a frequently used idea for horror movies, the music box melody (“Lullaby”). Possibly featured in the film itself (the trailer shows one of the characters winding up a music box when in the cabin), this melody forms the main melodic line of the opening “Main Titles”. It’s a great opening to the 25-minute album. A lone heartbeat-like synth rhythm (reminding me of a similar device from Clint Mansell’s The Hole) opens the cue and then we hear the lullaby melody on some excellent-sounding synths. It’s clear this early that the composer(s) are going down the route of writing repeated rhythmic patterns to instil a sense of unease rather than going all out for scares with weird (and sometimes unlistenable) synth textures and stingers. This melody surfaces a number of times in cues such as “Baptism” and “Bloody Mary”, where a quick tempo piano and celeste statement of the theme and a fragmented, ethereal version on a Hammond organ-style synth, respectively, provides interesting thematic variation. A slow and deliberate synth line in “Spooky Old House” subtly hints at this important theme, creating a link between theme and the cabin early in the score (and movie).

Overall, the score relies heavily on the repetition of short motifs to create the mood of the score rather than trying to scare the listener with harsh synth “hits” that are littered amongst meandering textural soundscapes. “The Woods” is a prime example of NE†HERWORLD’s technique. The track opens with a repeating synth pattern that’s not particularly committed in terms of creating any specific feeling. But the ostinato pattern itself does begin to make the listener uneasy just by being repeated and being a bit ambiguous. Then a simple series of low tones on piano are added and this moves the feel of the cue to a sense of dread. It’s done simply but is quite effective. “Poor Tom”, a score highlight, opens with a fast-paced ostinato pattern that then segues (via a screeching decrescendo) to a breathlessly fast “rat-a-tat-tat” in the bass and a pounding, relentless “walking” motif (reminding me of the motif Fred Karlin used for the Gunslinger in Westworld). The addition of a second powerful quick ostinato synth ramps up the sense of peril of the track before a slower, more deliberate ostinato pattern moves the cue to its conclusion (punctuated with a piercing synth effect). Again, it’s all simply done but is highly effective.

And The Devil Makes Three does contain its fair share of foreboding textures. For example, the distinctly Carpenter-esque “Out For A Run” has a series of sustained tones peppered with low piano tones, “Bloody Mary” features an almost dreamy Vangelis-styled texture of synth washes and the latter half of “Separation Anxiety” uses a series of long synth tones that does a good job of creating a sense of apprehension. “Separation Anxiety” is a good example of a feature of the score that is heard a number of times: a distinct division of a number of cues into separate musical entities within the same track. In the aforementioned track, the apprehensive textures is preceded by a short repeated melodic fragment (again, reminding me of an earlier horror score: this time A Nightmare On Elm Street) that is quite different from the remainder of the cue. “The Woods” is another good example of this feature. It’s unclear whether these tracks are entire pieces or short, separate cues stitched together for the album in order to offer a better listening experience. Because the score doesn’t rely on extensive use of long thematic material, this feature of the album is not particularly distracting but is worth mentioning.

Elsewhere, the use of the organ as a prominent musical element adds to the whole feel of the score. The deep, full tone of the organ adds to the sense of dread and portent (e.g., “Spooky Old House”, “Out For A Run”, “Baptism”). A grand opening statement on the organ in “Night” sounds almost a musical parody when considered alongside the rest of the score. This feeling is emphasised when this fanfare stalls and wails to a halt as though a tape has lost its power, distorting the music being played. Also, the inclusion of an 80s synth pop rhythm in the second half of “Come For†h” is another feature of the score that seems at odds with the rest of the score. It would be interesting to see how this works in the film. “Death (The End)” contains some of the harshest moments of the score, with a cacophony of harsh, industrial hits and piercing wails assaulting the ears before the cue (and score) comes to an end on a grating sustained chord.

This album is an entertaining throwback to the memorable horror scores from the 80s where the inventive use of musical motifs and melodies, catchy ostinato ideas and interesting textural moments come together to create a rewarding listening experience away from the film itself. Yes, And The Devil Makes Three does seem to rely a lot on other scores from that era but they are influences that worked then and they work for me now. And The Devil Makes Three appears to be the film-makers’ first main feature (including the music) and it bodes well for future projects if they can channel their love of quality horror score of the past into creating original music for their films. And as their confidence grows, I am sure they will become less reliant on borrowing from the likes of John Carpenter and focus on creating more of their own sound.

And The Devil Makes Three is available to purchase at a variety of online stores as a digital download or to download free of charge at their Bandcamp page but I would invite people to make a small donation if downloading from Bandcamp.

Rating: ***½

  1. Main Titles (2:16)
  2. Spooky Old House (3:02)
  3. Out For A Run (1:36)
  4. Night (2:21)
  5. Baptism (1:34)
  6. Separation Anxiety (2:03)
  7. The Woods (2:25)
  8. Come For†h (2:40)
  9. Bloody Mary (2:36)
  10. Him (1:24)
  11. Poor Tom (2:17)
  12. Death (The End) (1:03)
  13. Lullaby (0:59)

Running Time: 26:22

The Terrible Productions, LLC (2016)

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