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10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Composed by Bear McCreary
  • Sparks & Shadows / 2016 / 63m

A “spiritual successor” (though it’s entirely its own thing) to 2008’s Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane – which marks the directorial debut of Dan Trachtenberg – stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman.  Like the previous film, it has received a clever viral marketing campaign and received very strong reviews; unlike the previous film, it’s also received an original score (Cloverfield had a fantastic end credits piece by Michael Giacchino but that was it).

Said score comes courtesy of the prolific Bear McCreary, who seems to be constantly busy on various tv shows but still has time to throw in the odd movie here and there; this one’s probably the most high-profile thing he’s done so far outside television.  He’s a versatile composer and pleasingly seems to give each of his projects a unique feeling – his big breakthrough, Battlestar Galactica, had such a distinctive sound that it would have been understandable if he’d gone on to do the same thing over and over again, but he hasn’t – and this beast of a score is angry and at times savage but consistently entertaining, in the style of classic horror scores.

Bear McCreary

Bear McCreary

But… just as in classic horror style, McCreary starts things off gently, “Michelle” opening with a swirling melody that is certainly spooky but it develops a lullaby-type sound, the composer gradually adding more components to the orchestra as the piece progresses.  It makes a captivating start to proceedings, and at first a variant on the melody bleeds into the subsequent “The Concrete Cell” but claustrophobic electronics and then piercing strings see it turn into a very dark piece, some real energy developing through the second half.

In “Howard”, elements from each of the previous two tracks combine but there’s an added element now, after some misleading initial warmth comes a real sense of fear, a distant female vocal adding to the effect; then there’s the calm before the storm in “A Bright Red Flash” before the storm itself arrives in “At the Door”, powerful and door-rattling brass and percussion opening things up before more psychological terror comes from the strings.  “Two Stories” is more restrained, the main theme passing through various guises and McCreary generally also keeps the leash on during the suspenseful “Message from Megan” (the ghostly strings, not for the first time in the score, remind me a bit of James Horner in his early years).

“Hazmat Suit” begins with an electronic beat and some abrasive synth sounds but it’s not long before the main theme gets back in on the act, the music really picking up the pace after a slight lull, and while “A Happy Family” (whose tone suggests an anything-but-happy family) slows things down again, it’s an impressive piece.  All remaining shackles are removed in “The Burn”, an intense action cue with some cracking material for the brass.  “Up Above” has a somewhat spooky, somewhat detached sound including the distinctive “blaster beam” performed by Craig Huxley, which will be a real boon to those film music fans of a certain vintage.

“Valencia” (which was the code name for the film while it was being made) is just wonderful, explosive action/horror music, pounding and thunderous, brassy and exciting.  In “The New Michelle” comes the prettiest music in the whole score, a passage of fluttering reeds and shimmering strings opening the piece but it soon regains the haunted sound that dominates many of the score’s softer periods.  Just as you’re savouring that, McCreary unleashes an absolutely blinding six-minute finale, “10 Cloverfield Lane” being an explosive and extremely satisfying way of closing out the score.

With a few longer tracks and plenty of thematic development, 10 Cloverfield Lane feels like a really well-developed score.  My preference would have been a slightly tighter album, maybe omitting a couple of cues from the middle section, but it is a consistent and rounded score and when it gets going, it really gets going.  McCreary’s a really strong and very successful composer, so it seems odd to talk about him having a big break, but I wonder if this is the score that will propel him into more consistently high-profile films either alongside or instead of all the high-profile television – it’s certainly good enough to, maybe his best film score yet.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Elfenthalsmith (Reply) on Tuesday 15 March, 2016 at 21:29

    I wonder if McCreary ever actually lies down for a nap. Not that I’m complaining, the guy is really gifted.

  2. tiago (Reply) on Tuesday 15 March, 2016 at 21:40

    James, did you just spoiled the movie on the first paragraph? There are people (like me) whose contries will only get the movie next month!

  3. James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 15 March, 2016 at 21:42

    I didn’t think that was a spoiler? (But I do apologise if it spoiled it!)

  4. J.B. (Reply) on Tuesday 15 March, 2016 at 23:08

    It’s technically a spoiler, yeah. The movie keeps what’s going on in the outside world a mystery until the climax.

    Great review! McCreary’s score is excellent (and a great asset to the film).

    • James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 15 March, 2016 at 23:12

      I’ve edited it now, but I thought that since I knew it and I haven’t seen the movie (or read any reviews of it) that everybody must know it!

  5. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Wednesday 16 March, 2016 at 08:39

    Is there any way the score could get an extra star for just having a blaster beam? Also, “Hazmat Suit” electronics at the beginning was layered Blaster Beam takes.

    Here’s also a video Bear cut together:

    It is too late to get Batman/Superman rescored?

  6. André, Cape Town. (Reply) on Wednesday 16 March, 2016 at 23:53

    Last week I viewed THE BOY – another horror genré movie scored by McCREARY. A very ordinary piano theme accompanies the arrival of an American woman to a spooky looking mansion in the rural English countryside. She’s been hired by a bizarre elderly couple to play nanny to their 8 year old son, Brahms. However, he’d died tragically 20 years earlier…and a ceramic boy-doll is the substitute for the dead Brahms. Before departing for their first holiday in decades, the elderly parents give the nanny a list of instructions that details caring for their doll-child…reading to it after undressing it at night, and kissing it sweet dreams…preparing breakfast for the boy-doll and playing its favourite classical music, on scratchy vinyls, at loud audio levels. When the parents depart the nanny, however, just tosses the doll aside, pours a glass of wine and settles down to read. You can guess what happens next – to the accompaniment of McCREARY’S musical stings and brooding, menacing underscore that works for the movie, but doesn’t warrant the CD release that is now available…or maybe I’m wrong? Hopefully James, you’ll also review THE BOY and say it isn’t just a variation of the above score. I recently listened to ELMER BERNSEIN’S ‘Kings of the Sun’ and glancing through the credits noticed one for BEAR McCREARY – he had “reconstructed and reorchestrated the long lost score from the original pencil manuscripts” and was “one of a small and select group of protegés of the multi-honoured BERNSTEIN.” ‘Kings of the Sun’ was performed by The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Bernstein. It was included with the ‘Elmer Bernstein’s Filmmusic Collection’ box-set when the LPs were digitally enhanced for CD release in 2006. Very expensive, but worth it as the maestro, in the selections, also pays homage to his peers.

  7. J.B. (Reply) on Thursday 17 March, 2016 at 05:56

    “The Boy” is an okay McCreary score which gets the job done but sounds like he wrote it in a week (which knowing his schedule isn’t unlikely). “10 Cloverfield Lane” is much more inspired, with better thematic material and a more distinctive sound.