Saturday, January 30, 2016

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW: The Happening by James Newton Howard

Someone wrote in a soundtrack forum once, "Shyamalan's movies have become increasingly bad while Howard's music has become increasingly better." Well, it went something like that.

After seeing the gross Red Band trailer for The Happening, I was wondering what James Newton Howard was composing for such a dark, bloody, gory movie. Safe to say, he stuck to what he's done for past Shyamalan films: conveying emotion. James downplays the horrors of this film by scoring to the human emotion rather than the unseen, frightening element. That doesn't mean he doesn't underscore the scary moments. You'll find his signature orchestral clusters aplenty here.

The highlights of the album are the cello solos by Maya Beiser, and what I term "the plague" theme. (The "plague" being the thing that attacks people. I don't know what else to call.) "The plague march" (listen on CENTRAL PARK and MRS. JONES) is much like the monster themes of old when the creature or unseen assailant would creep upon the victim before striking. This theme took me back to another great monster theme: "Cloverfield" by Michael Giacchino. The "Main Titles" gives a great intro to the score as its comprised of the major themes of the score. And of course my favorite track has to be "End Title Suite."

My complaint for recent James Newton Howard releases for Shyamalan films has been the short running time on the album. This score release from Varese Sarabande is nearly 50 minutes long making it perhaps the longest release for a Shyamalan film. The film is reportedly 90 minutes long so I'm sure we get a near full representation of the score as it will be heard on film.

Haunting. Original. Beautiful. And spooky. This is James Newton Howard doing what he does best! Just don't compare it to Lady in the Water. Apples and Oranges.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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