I’m not a huge horror fan, I want to get that out of the way right away before I get into the review of the soundtrack to a horror film. I don’t dislike them but I’m not clamoring to see them in the theater either. Once or twice a year I’ll find one I really enjoyed. I found a couple in 2016 that I enjoyed but in 2015 there was really only one film that caught my eye: It Follows. It was not your normal run of the mill horror because despite its use of normal horror tropes it uses them in special ways. But of course I’m not here to talk about the film itself, this is a music blog after all. I’m here to talk about the soundtrack, by Disasterpeace.
Soundtracks in horror films, as I’ve said before, need to be subtle to help amp up the tension and terror in the film. While I stand by that, this soundtrack seems to be the exception. The tension and terror actually came from the score as I watching it. There were jump scares, it’s horror, but the jump was caused by the music not necessarily by anything on screen. What was happening on the screen was indeed bizarre and scary but without the theremin heavy score the film would not be near as memorable, indeed while it was a good film I would likely not remember it if it weren’t for the score.
Music that puts you at ease, music that relaxes you, usually has rounded edges to the sound, the sound doesn’t quite stab at you (black metal relaxes me and while the riffs are often razor sharp, those barbs are pointed outward). It Follows’ soundtrack does exactly that, it doesn’t let you rest or relax. The music has a hard edge, an echo that doesn’t seem natural like drone. And it doesn’t abate. The film is not an overly long one but the soundtrack lasts a while.
Despite the edgy uncomfortable nature of the music, the sound is somewhat nostalgic to me. Why? I grew up on Star Trek (not the original run, I’m not that old) and the theremin was vital to the sci-fi soundtracks that were produced. The theremin, despite its chaotic and unwieldy sound, is familiar and it’s engaging. It’s hard to ignore a theremin when it’s playing. That plays well for the movie. The soundtrack doesn’t take away the horror and unease of the imagery, rather it heightens and enriches it. The film was well acted and the script was quite solid, never giving you answers to alleviate the tension and give you a glimmer of light. The film was enjoyable, my time watching it was well spent. I’ve only seen it once though, and I’ve listened to the soundtrack a half dozen times at least in the last few weeks. Why? Because the music is what really made this film. The theremin, the composition, the volume, everything about it has made it remarkable. It doesn’t use the orchestral or symphony as most film scores use which makes it unique, the music is really in the hands of the composer from beginning to end.
Film scoring isn’t like writing an album, you have a script (both literally and figuratively) you have to follow. You are given input from sources that know, sometimes, little about musical composition, you are not in control the way you are when you write an album. The risks of failure are great but the rewards are as well.
The risks paid off for It Follows. Both as a film and as a soundtrack, everything succeeds. The film is not your run-of-the-mill forgettable horror flick and the music stays with you long after the movie is over. It’s haunting and it’s nerve-wracking. It’s a perfect marriage here.