- 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.
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.