Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Oooh, scary! music - Part III

Among many other aspects, slasher movies have been, more often than not, cursed with cheap-sounding music scores. Anyone with a Casio and too much free time can make a bad film worse or bring down a good movie. Still, every once in a great while, a slasher gets a fully orchestrated music score that raises the quality of the film. Such an event came with The House on Sorority Row.

On the verge of graduation, sorority sisters are picked off one by one. In other words, typical 80s slasher boilerplate claptrap. (Can you tell I've never seen it?) The film is interesting in that it was written and directed by Mark Rosman, who went on to, for a time, direct Hilary Duff vehicles (The Perfect Man, A Cinderella Story, 11 episodes of "Lizzie McGuire"). Yeah, it's weird.

The score comes courtesy of the ever-underappreciated Richard Band. In the "Main Titles", fluttering winds and shimmering harp give way to a very lovely soaring melody that alternates between strings and oboe. Listening to this music, you'd never suspect that nubile coeds were gonna be hacked least until the creepiness of the sustained note at the track's end.

The other major theme is a pretty music box medley that bears more than a passing resemblance to Schifrin's The Amityville Horror theme...something that is, more or less, copped to in the CD's liner notes. Still, in tracks like "Slater's Memories" and "Hallucination and Escape", it can be quite creepy. "Music Box" features the complete theme in earnest, with chimes and solo voice giving the tune a somewhat mournful edge.

The score doesn't skimp on action for the requisite 'pursued by the killer' scenes. "The Cemetary" and "Jeannie's Flight" race about with xylophone, strings and horns chasing after the characters.

Band also lends a sense of suspense in the film's quieter moments. "Kathy in Attic", for instance, interweaves foreboding cello work and icy strings with wafting woodwinds (while taking time to revisit the music box theme on chimes).

"Last Hallucination" is interesting in how it starts with the music box theme, then subtly works in low creepy strings and other peculiar orchestral effects, while "Retribution"'s swirling strings lead to the film's ending...spoiled by the final notes. (The film, not the music, which is appropriately creepy.) The "End Credits" revisit the music box theme, first on harp and chimes, then on full orchestra before reprising the "Main Titles".

Overall, this is a very exciting score. Unfortunately, it has been out of print for many years (released by Intrada in 1993 and paired on disc with The Alchemist, which was since reissued in complete form with Zone Troopers, which it - Alchemist - was originally released with on LP. Got it?) and the current prices for it are unspeakably gougey. Still, if you happen upon an opportunity to get it, do not pass it up. And, with the multitude of Band scores getting reissues (Ghost Warrior, Mutant, Troll), do not count out a re-release.

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