- Composed by Fernando Velázquez
- Quartet Records / 2013 / 64:01
A relatively low-budget horror film, Mama has done very good business in early 2013. A pair of kids are left abandoned in the woods by their father and found five years later by their aunt and uncle – seemingly with a third presence accompanying them. It’s an English-language remake of a 2008 Spanish film by the same director, Andrés Muschietti. Spanish composer Fernando Velázquez has emerged over the last few years as one of the most promising film composers around, gaining particular prominence with The Orphanage, but 2012’s The Impossible is the score that thrust him further into the limelight and Mama should only aid his rise further.
This is a first-rate horror score composed in the classical style which is hugely entertaining on album and I would imagine works very well in the film. The opening three cues present the score’s main ideas. “The Car and the Radio” is loud, scary, oppressive orchestral horror; the fantastic “The Encounter and Main Title” presents a sweeping, lyrical main theme and a children’s lullaby which inevitably evokes Jerry Goldsmith’s classic Poltergeist; and “Helvetia” alternates between Christopher Young-style gothic horror and another very sweet theme, this time for piano, which is very affecting. From these building blocks Velázquez moulds his very impressive score.
The score’s key feature is the juxtaposition of grotesque horror with a series of melodic expressions of childlike innocence. For every shriek and scream, there’s an “ooh” and an “aah” – a constant contrast which proves to be utterly compelling. A solo voice introduced in “What Happens Now” is heard in between violent bursts of brass and strings and this mixture of beauty and the beast is a perfect example of what the composer attempts throughout the score, and it works brilliantly.
The melodies that are here are quite exquisite. “Observation Room” features a straightforward piano melody which doesn’t last long but creates quite an impression; later in the same piece, the strings swell with a piece of heartbreaking melancholy. In “Desange Folder”, the composer introduces another new melody, this one – particularly because of its arrangement – suggestive of a great mystery, but with a stirring sense of drama. Again it’s all about juxtaposition, this time between the heavenly choir and the dark power of the strings and brass. Later, “Good Night” features another lilting moment, provided this time by a violin and then piano solo which is enough to melt the heart.
Perhaps best of all is the enormous finale, the 13-minute “Last Reel”, which summarises the score in a microcosm – pounding brass hits alternating with choppy, exhilarating string runs and always those moments of beauty. Mama is the strongest horror score I’ve heard in a while, a confident and powerful effort which evokes vintage Goldsmith (and specifically that great film composer’s own primary influences like Bartók and Stravinsky). It’s a fabulously enjoyable score which cements the growing reputation of Fernando Velázquez and now leaves little doubt that he is one of the most talented and exciting film composers around.