CD Review: January Soundtrack Picks

By • January 18, 2010

‘Daybreakers‘ One Of The Top Soundtracks To Own For January, 2010

Also Worth Picking Up: Alice, Caddyshack, The Descent – Part 2, Edge Of Darkness, The Prisoner, Silent Night, Bloody Night, Winterhawk and Under The Mountain

To purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover.


Price: $13.98

What is it?: Leave it to a composer from down under to make fresh soundtrack sun rise on the vampire genre, as Aussie Christopher Gordon follows up his chilling work on the TV redo of SALEM’S LOT with an even more impressive tunes for the undead, music that stands as one of the most powerful scores for bloodsucking this side of Wojciech Kilar’s DRACULA and Johan Soderqvist’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN- not to mention John Williams’ DRACULA.

Why should you buy it?: Right from its brooding symphonic start, you know you’re in for something special as Gordon’s weighty orchestral sound gives DAYBREAKERS a beautiful, brooding quality- a classy tone that could easily accompany a reboot of Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” as well as this new breed of world-conquering vampire. It’s almost a shock to get this kind of hugely orchestral score for a genre picture, complete with the ghostliest chorus this side of Ligeti’s “Atmospheres.” Yet Gordon isn’t content to let his music rest on its terrific symphonic laurels, unleashing frenzied percussion for the more violent moments, what might be the happiest payoff ever for a horror score, and subtle electronic eeriness to pay off the directing Spierig brothers’ stated love of John Carpenter. Plus you get Placebo drinking new Gothic blood for the lyrically apt closing song choice of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill.”

Extra Special: DAYBREAKERS is off to the races as one of the best scores of the year, one that will hopefully bring Gordon deserved Hollywood recognition.


Price: $17.95

What is it?: If nearly all horror sequels stick to formula, we can be thankful that THE DESCENT’s bleakly terrifying musical chemistry, has remained in the domain of David Julyan, a composer who boldly ventures once again to the depths of Appalachia for a second match with The Crawlers.

Why should you buy it?: Few scores, or films effectively rose their atmosphere from a barely heard whisper to a dissonant onslaught like THE DESCENT. Now Julyan recaptures just about every shivering theme and tonality from his original work, while adding an even bigger shot of percussive testosterone for the inevitable moment where the cannibal creatures hit the fan. It’s a gripping journey that also plays its heroine’s emotional transcendence through primeval, underground hell.

Extra Special: Julyan’s more than proven on such Christopher Nolan films as MEMENTO and THE PRESTIGE that he’s got an intelligent, unearthly approach for dark material. And hearing this even deeper plunge into musical heroism amidst horror makes one ponder what the composer could give to The Bat if Nolan ever gave him the shot. In the meanwhile, Julyan delivers a DESCENT score that’s arguably more satisfying than his first underground outing, with Movie Score Media using the occasion to switch from their “digipack” booklet to regular CD format with this release.

3) THE ENTITY (1200 edition)

Price: $19.99

What is it?: Eighteen years before PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, an invisible creature terrorized a woman to arguably more frightening results. Making it palpable were the beyond-eerie synthesizers of composer Charles Bernstein, who pioneering a horror sound here that would classically pay off in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET.

Why should you buy it?: If you wondered where those slashing rock guitar chords came from that accompanied the instant terror of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS’ “Jew Hunter,” then here’s where Quentin Tarantino got the “Thrasher” motif from (continuing his love of Bernstein music that had previously seen music from WHITE LIGHTNING end up in KILL BILL’s soundtrack). But for the most part, THE ENTITY is ethereal fear of the creepiest kind. It’s electronics are as chilling as the night air, their piercing tones testing the walls of our reality- much like the unseen tendrils of this creature before pouncing on its victim’s orchestral soul for this allegedly true story.

Extra Special: In-depth liner notes feature new interviews with Bernstein and ENTITY director Sidney J. Furie, who details how the music was suspenseful enough to end up affecting his camera movements. The CD’s bonus tracks also feature the composer walking us through the evolution of his “Thrasher” theme to its final, BASTERDS-worthy results.


Price: $14.99

What is it?: Now it’s Jim Caviezel who’s a person, and not a number in this AMC miniseries revamp of the classic series. And accompanying him into the virtual reality mind games of this new Village is composer Rupert Gregson-Williams, whose weirdly intoxicating approach is in a whole other town from the cool kids’ stuff he usually does for such scores as OVER THE HEDGE and BEE MOVIE.

Why should you buy it?: Old school PRISONER fans certainly aren’t going to get the kind of off-kilter 60’s spy jazz music that was provided for the original show by such composers as Robert Farnon and Wilfred Josephs. But those willing to open themselves up to this far more sci-fi take on the material will quickly find themselves mesmerized by Williams’ backward-sounding samples- creative pads of musical experimentation that remain consistently melodic and interesting. Unlike a hero who can’t wait to escape his antiseptic surroundings, the promise of whatever beautifully bizarre avenue that Williams’ pads will turn into makes this new PRISONER’s musical confines seem boundless.

Extra Special: Just to prove that this musical Village isn’t all hallucinatory grooves, Williams indulges in just a bit of polka music and elevator kitsch to bring a smile to his haunted head tripping.

5) SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1,000 edition)

Price: $15.95

What is it?: It’s never too late to celebrate Christmas, especially when it comes to having beautifully diabolical musical fun with our favorite holiday hymn, courtesy of this 1974 Xmas-themed “slasher” movie that truly put the holiday spirit into the horror genre.

Why should you buy it?: SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (also known as DEATH HOUSE) was one of the few movie scores composed by avant-garde electric music pioneer Gershon Kingsley, best known for his 1969 pop single “Popcorn.” Here Kingsley shows equal power in the symphonic realm, with strings and piano giving suspenseful stealth to the film’s homicidal maniac. While his work may have been chopped up in the movie itself, this well-produced limited edition arranges Kingsley’s music into a number of “movements,” all of which combine for a chillingly sinister score that does well in comparison to such Bernard Herrmann soundtracks of the time as THE NIGHT DIGGER and SISTERS. As such, this finally released NIGHT reveals a talent that horror music would have done well to hear more of.

Extra Special: SILENT NIGHT and the accompanying release of Steven Mena’s MALEVOLENCE announce the auspicious arrival of Wall Crumpler’s Howlin’ Wolf Records, whose mission will be to find notable scores from the genre’s past and future. And judging by the quality of this BLOODY NIGHT, I can’t wait to hear what other cult-horror killer they’ll vibrantly exhume.

Also for Your Consideration


Even before Danny Elfman takes us to a more classically attuned wonderland, Ben Mink arrives on Varese with what likely will be the oddest score for a long while to accompany the Lewis Carroll classic. Following in the rebooted “adult” fairy tale steps of SyFy’s TIN MAN, the increasingly impressive composer Ben Mink (50 DEAD MEN WALKING) certainly grunges up our sunny memories of the fable for a place perhaps better described as Marilyn Manson’s Wonderland. Here the psychedelic accent is on creepy guitar rock and mysterious strings, with some very clever detours along the way into 50’s doo-wop, surf licks and rock- beat jazz. As Alice makes her not-so merry journey to Mink’s bizarre riffs, you expect her to run into Leatherface as much as you do The Mad Hatter. But then, forget about Alice. If any character’s fit to wander to Mink’s sinister, trippy tunes, it’s Emily the Strange.


There’s a playful creepiness to Alan Howarth’s synth score to this 1996 Danish thriller (known there as MORKELEG), which finally gets a release via Howarth’s AHI label. Fans of the composer’s atmospheric HALLOWEEN sequel scores, as well as the sinister beat that he conjured with John Carpenter for PRINCE OF DARKNESS will certainly appreciate the Dulcimer-driven rhythm of this creeping around-with-a-butcher knife stuff. Sure the panicked characters might not be speaking English, but Howarth certainly understands that percussive horror music is a universal language, and a style that he’s helped write the dictionary on.

CADDYSHACK (3500 edition)

Harold Ramis’ classic golf comedy was more than alright, yet it’s hard to believe its soundtrack has never been released before on CD. La La Land rectifies that under par with this straight-up re-issue of the LP program, whose youthfully energetic songs like “I’m Alright,” “Lead the Way” and “Make the Move” helped make Kenny Loggins the go-to balladeer for the likes of FOOTLOOSE and TOP GUN. Those tunes are nicely complemented by the power pop stylings of Journey and Hilly Michaels, with composer Johnny Mandel on hand with pleasant lounge stylings and explosive classical goofs. Giving extra swing to CADDYSHACK’s new package are new liner note interviews with Ramis, Mandel and the music supervisors who helped make this a hole-in-one when it came to great 70’s and 80’s rock soundtracks.


It’s no small irony that Howard Shore had previously accompanied Mel Gibson’s parental rampage in RANSOM, only to see his score replaced. But even if Shore’s now inadvertently put the kill on John Corigliano’s first stab at this revenge thriller, it’s hard to imagine more musical hurt being put on Mel’s malefactors. For whether it’s SEVEN’s serial killer or the hooligans of THE DEPARTED, few composers use such a bold wall of symphonic bleakness to conjure a world of lowlifes, and the ever-darkening nobility of heroes bent on justice at any cost. While EDGE doesn’t add anything particularly new to Shore’s mission, it’s still bold, emotional and jarringly confrontational in its sometimes shrieking action- the musical equivalent of a hard knock to the jaw with an angry, anguished symphonic fist.


Usually, the music for kids’ goosebump adventures is supposed to have a reassuring lightness to it. That pleasantly isn’t the case for the dark, gnarly tones that accompany two twins who end up fighting shape shifters under the volcanoes of Auckland. This MOUNTAIN is a score that could just as easily accompany teens being graphically munched on by said creatures. Then again, New Zealand composer Victoria Kelly certainly has the stuff for serious horror music after scoring the bloodthirsty BLACK SHEEP, and delivers real nerve-jangling suspense here, using the lowest registers of her brassy orchestra to convey age-old evil out to destroy heroes just starting their lives. Simply put, when her music epically roars in such cues as “The Beast in the Jungle,” and “The Gargantua Rises,” it packs the kind of melodic threat that tells us anyone’s game, as well as alerting listeners to a promising genre composer.

WINTERHAWK (1,000 edition)

While he’d deliver some of his most popular scores for the likes of BEASTMASTER and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, it was this 1975 Indian adventure that first let composer Lee Holdridge truly revel in the great musical outdoors- a place full of soaring, spiritual melodies and rousing action. Perhaps most impressive was that Holdridge delivered this beautifully lush score with a little help from this composing friends, who delivered strikingly good work with little budget, and even less time for the director of THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK- a saga captivatingly conveyed in Randall Larson’s liner notes. With immediately striking themes that capture the majesty of the old, frozen west and the nobility of its vanishing natives, WINTERHAWK is much more than a footnote to the beginning of Holdridge’s symphonic trek.


After conjuring Casio keyboard eccentricity for NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, John Swihart scores another teen angst classic with YOUTH IN REVOLT. And since its cineaste hero has a much better vocabulary, Swihart is able to noticeably expand on his socially inept sound. Here a wealth of plunkily playful percussion gets across our acerbic brainiac and his simmering alter ego, both of whom try to rescue their dream girl from the sticks. Her rustic trailer park sound plays a big part in Swihart’s approach to YOUTH, from the strutting piano of “Keys” to the Baroque bell guitar of “Nick and Sheeni Make Love” While it would have been great to get more Swihart here, Lakeshore’s YOUTH compilation does offers a catchy variety of indie-ready songs, from the classy romance of Jo Stafford’s “My Romance” to the organ beat of the Fruit Bats’ “When You Love Somebody.” Even star Michael Cera gets in a downbeat track with “I Have a Boyfriend,” a subtly goofy instrumental that’s as close to the primitive DYNAMITE sound that YOUTH gets. For in a teen soundtrack wasteland where the primary goal is to get laid, Swihart and the smart song choices of YOUTH capture the same urge with a fun vibe that’s purposefully too smart for the room

CLICK on the album covers to make your purchase, or find these soundtracks at these .com’s: Amazon, Buysoundtrax, Intrada, iTunes. Moviemusic, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande


By chris on January 18th, 2010 at 10:55 am

hey, Victoria Kelly (Under the Mountain) is definitely a New Zealander not Australian 🙂

By 2vs8 on January 25th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Great call on “SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT” by Gershon Kingsley…
I am glad that it made it to a release, the great guys over at “Howlin’ Wolf Records” are one to keep an eye on in coming years…


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