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  • Composed by Marc Streitenfeld
  • Sony Classical / 2015 / 44m

Another week, another horror remake, this time of Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg’s 1982 Poltergeist which scared me rigid when I sneakily watched it when I was a few years old, and made me laugh when I watched it a couple of decades later.  The remake is directed by Gil Kenan and stars Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt.  It’s billed as a “reimagining” of the original, and such was the level of imagination that went into it, there isn’t even a character called Carol-Anne.

Since there isn’t a character called Carol-Anne, there’s no “Carol-Anne’s Theme” either, which freed composer Marc Streitenfeld to go entirely his own way with the music.  He’s had a slightly odd career really – having never scored a film before, in 2006 he found himself scoring Ridley Scott’s A Good Year and his next six scores, spread over the next six years, were all for films either directed or produced by Scott.  Prometheus was the end of that and this is only his second score since.  I’m not really sure how he wound up as Scott’s composer of choice for that period because there seemed little distinctive about his music, which sort of sat in the films without seeming to have any great purpose (ironically Prometheus, the last one, was easily the best, but even that is very bland).  Anyway, he’s now obviously forging a career working with different filmmakers.

Marc Streitenfeld

Marc Streitenfeld

Having said there’s no “Carol-Anne’s Theme”, Streitenfeld’s score does actually start with a kind of twisted lullaby, an innocent childlike instrumental accompaniment lying underneath a creepy and stylish melody which serves as the score’s main theme.  The 99-second opening cue is the best on the album and leads the listener into a false sense of security as to how good it’s going to be; the early promise is not fulfilled.  After that it’s straight into one horror music cliché after another, brass stingers and abrasive electronics leading the way, which are effective enough but not fresh.

The best of the ideas is an electronic sound not unlike the noise you used to get if you turned the tv over to a channel that wasn’t tuned in correctly, but it’s not something many people will derive much enjoyment from outside the context of the film.  In common with many scores by this composer, it’s hard to point at much here and say it’s bad – it’s just bland and too often just leaves me thinking about scores that did similar things but did them better. The pounding drums and strained melody of “Maddy is on TV” are a case in point.  It’s a pretty intense action chiller track in the first half, a sincere attempt at emoting in the second, and you could extract either as a kind of textbook example of “film music for situation X sounds like this” if you were teaching a course – but it’s hard to find any personality there.  It’s cold and calculated – and I appreciate that is probably by design – and fails to make a connection because of that.  Only near the very end, in “Let Her Go”, is there a cue that really seems to have much desire to make itself be remembered, with energy and enthusiasm, and it’s a great shame the composer couldn’t have found opportunities to do the same elsewhere in the score.

Large parts of the album, which is short for 2015, pass by with barely anything much happening and combined with the fact that even the best parts sound cobbled together from ideas expressed much more successfully many times in the past by others, this is an album that leaves little impression.  Some of the electronic noises are genuinely unpleasant, nails on a chalkboard.  I suppose the moral of the story is that if you really have to make a Poltergeist remake, at least have the decency to get Christopher Young to score it.

Rating: ** | |

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  1. Juanki (Reply) on Monday 25 May, 2015 at 10:47

    “I suppose the moral of the story is that if you really have to make a Poltergeist remake, at least have the decency to get Christopher Young to score it.”

    James, this quote deserves the Pulitzer award

  2. Movie lover (Reply) on Monday 25 May, 2015 at 14:34

    I always welcome your reviews, and your site is excellent!

    On this one I disagree with you, however, What Streitenfeld has achieved here, IMO, is something really exciting, much more subtle than one might think. I did love his PROMETHEUS score, however, and if one generally does not like his style this one will probably not persuade one to reconsider.

    But while I love Christopher Young´s “Hellraiser”-scores, that style just would not suit this new approach. Streitenfeld´s ideas do. The great thing about this score is that it is NOT constant noise but an insightful combination of melody and soundscapes, knowing exactly when to use the one or the other, or how to let them collide.

    IMO, this is a gem bound to be underrated, emerging as one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.