Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The Music of Sinister

       Sinister, a recent horror movie starring Ethan Hawke is an effective chiller, most notable because of one key component: the music.
       Sure, there are a couple of cheap jump scares (some well done, others feeling rather forced) but it's the sense of pervading dread and eeriness that the music used in this film helps to amplify that really gets under your skin.

       Before we get to that though, don't bother watching the trailer if you actually want to watch and enjoy this film (it pretty much shows you all the scary moments of the film, thus dampening the impact when actually watching it) – a classic example of a film being totally spoiled by its trailer – which is usually why I don't watch trailers.
       Yes, I know I always link trailers to whatever film I am writing about but that's beside the point (it mostly for consistency and convenience for the reader, should they wish to look it up).

       Anyway, the music… Two major parts to it here:

       Firstly, the score by Christopher Young - it’s moody, dark and terrifying – mixing droning ambient noises with ominous pianos, disembodied vocals and glitchy, screechy electronica. This is particularly fitting for a movie that combines elements of an ancient evil (the demon Baghul), mixed with the (relatively) new technology of 8mm film that plays a great role in the story. A creepily effective mix of the old and new – the traditional and the experimental. All the tracks of the score sound different, but check out Portrait of Mr. Boogie for one such example.

       The second point is the licensed music used in the film. Director Scott Derrickson wanted the 8mm footage sequences in the film to have their own bits of music (separate from the score), and spent a long tome during the film’s production researching music from various experimental bands that would help create the right atmosphere for each of these 8mm segments.
       The result is a unique and creepy experience, an uneasy dread, every time Ethan Hawke’s character loads up another 8mm reel to watch. Check out these pieces that were used in the film from Ulver and Aghast. I dare you to listen to them by yourself with the lights turned off - unnerving to say the least.

       The 8mm segments are creepy in and of themselves as they feature that raw, intimate and voyeuristic quality – the horrifying subject matter depicted made more effective in this regard – and then further amped up by this seemingly unearthly music that is laid over the top of them.
       Even slightly more well-known bands such as Boards of Canada are featured - their song Gyroscope echoing the click-clack of the rolling 8mm film reel spinning away, as well as the muffled voice of a child counting alluding to the missing children in the film. Wonderfully creepy.

       Sinister is not the greatest of horror films and has its fair share of flaws, but its music stood out to me as being an especially excellent contribution to the overall unsettling nature of the film. If you are a fan of horror, you should definitely check it out, just for the music used (both the score and the licensed tracks being integrated together so brilliantly) and how much they can contribute so much to a film’s overall effect.

       You can check out Christopher Young’s score of the film HERE.
       You can also read an interview with the director about the film’s music HERE, which also includes some embedded vids of the licensed tracks to listen to.

27 Feb 2013

1 comment:

  1. An interest piece to read. Would have to watch the film again to see how effective the music was in contributing to the overall atmosphere.

    Minor point but that last sentence reads a little strange. Otherwise, Good entry.