John Debney’s The Call + Thriller Soundtrack Reviews

March 23, 2013 | By

English translation: "Halle afraid. Halle very, VERY afraid…"

Just uploaded is a podcast with composer John Debney, a longtime favourite of mine due to his large-scale action, horror, thriller, and sci-fi scores.

Since his debut in 1980, Debney’s written music for a broad variety of genres, but my personal favourites remain the grimmer genres because that’s where he tends to play with various kinds of contrasts involving melody, harmony, and modernism, of which The Call [M] (released on CD and digitally from Lakeshore Records) is a fine example.

In a stretch from his full orchestral mode, Debney went for a deeper electronic palette with slight orchestral elements, and like The Relic, there are fleeting bits of a short melody amid all kinds of dissonance, heavy textures, and moods far darker than his comedy scores.

His comfort in working between family-friendly comedies and slasher films alone shows a diversity not many composers have, and because of his consistency in working in both genres, he’s been able to avoid typecasting.

La-La Land recently remastered & expanded his brilliant The Relic on CD (my Rue Morgue review is in an upcoming issue), and alongside the slasher score for I Know What You Did Last Summer, it’s perhaps his best orchestral work. Every chord is marinated in dread, and the music is probably responsible for 50% of the tension in the film, since most of the shots are extremely dark. (Try watching the movie in a brightly lit room. You can barely make out anything once the drama plunges into the tunnels below the museum.)

Then there’s Dream House [M], a film acknowledged by many critics as a dud, and yet as sometimes happens, only the composer managed to grasp the essence of what the filmmakers aspired to create, making the better drama in music rather than celluloid. Varese released an immaculately mastered CD a while ago, and I’ve added a review because it demonstrates the empathy Debney can create in his harmonies before steering into modernism. It’s a perfect thriller score.

Also added into this week’s offerings are a pair of related thriller scores – La-La Land’s 2-disc set of Jennifer 8 [M] with an expanded version of Christopher Young’s score plus the rejected cues by Maurice Jarre (who left the project when things weren’t working out); and Dana Kaproff’s When a Stranger Calls [M] (1979) from Kritzerland.

Label bigwig Bruce Kimmel’s been championing a number of forgotten composers whose work on LP and CD has been paltry. Kaproff went from scoring feature films to TV, and some of his best work involves synth and orchestral blends for a series of thriller TV movies.

Stranger was recently remade into a rubbish shocker that looked and sounded great but, to paraphrase a friend’s favourite slogan, was as a dumb as a bag of dumb. Fred Walton’s original film is a solid shocker that relies on mood and some exceptional performances, plus Kaproff’s eerie score, which still holds its own, especially on CD.

Coming next: a review of Twilight Time’s In Like Flint, the superb Danish political TV series Borgen: Season 1, plus a new blog at Big Head Amusements on the latest set of video feedback consisting of line textures.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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