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Ready or Not
  • Composed by Brian Tyler
  • Fox Music / 63m

An action/horror/black comedy, Ready or Not follows a young woman marrying into a wealthy family – with the catch being that all the family members have a night in which they must try to kill her. Hey, it’s a family tradition, so she can’t complain about that. It stars Samara Weaving and has been quite positively received by critics and audiences.

Brian Tyler cut his teeth on horror films and thrillers when he was first making his name as a film composer to be reckoned with. While his career has taken him onto massive summer blockbusters, it’s nice to see him returning to his roots in a way with this score.

Brian Tyler

The album opens with a couple of takes on the score’s main theme. The “Ready or Not Overture” opens with a piano melody – there’s a distinctive chill in the air – and more obviously-sinister strings, even if they do retain a romantic veneer. It’s a fine theme, even if perhaps not quite as memorable as Tyler at his best (he’s never been short of a good tune or two). About three-quarters of the way in, the piece changes tack completely and turns into thriller mode, with string ostinati and a choppy keyboard motif, before ending with a dynamic blast of the main theme.

Then in “Ready or Nocturne for Solo Violin” that theme is there in a dark arrangement underneath a florid, heavily stylised violin solo which is done with aplomb, like an old-fashioned piece of gothic horror music. It’s a fine way to start the album.

The next couple of cues remind me of those “spooky” horror/thriller scores by Christopher Young in the 1990s like Copycat – the music lets you know that bad things are just around the corner, but they haven’t quite revealed themselves yet. It’s in “Here We Come” that the score really starts to uncover what it really is – which is a pretty intense sequence of thrills and chills. Within that piece, the brightness gets turned right down and the mood becomes decidedly sinister. Later, “Gearing Up” does what its name suggests as the thrills and chills get ramped right up. Speaking of which, “The Pit” is a fantastic piece of exactly that, perhaps my favourite in the score as Tyler pulls out all the tricks in the book to generate the scares.

There are some exceptions to the action – both the start and end of “Badass Bride” are full of tragic romance, and the way the electronically-accompanied action swirls up and then down again in the middle is impressive. There’s a nicely spooky reprise of the main theme in “Our Burden” with a sense of calm about it which offers a nice little break before the action starts again in the very same cue (the score’s main action motif getting a very good airing). “The Future Mrs Le Domas” offers a rare break into (almost) conventional romance. I like “Tea Time”, where there’s a bit of classical pastiche sitting underneath the horror scoring. “The Butler’s Sonatina” is a brief but gorgeous piece for piano which might be stylistically distant from the rest of the score in a way, but somehow seems to fit in perfectly.

The finale is great. First, “Joy (B)ride” is an intense piece of action/horror, full of raspy brass and choppy strings and at times classic horror-movie stingers. Then comes the six-minute “The Ritual”, which features some really gnarly dissonance – it’s full-on but not overwhelming. The second half of the cue in particular is really impressive. Finally comes “I Choose Her”, which offers a rather resigned-sounding version of the main theme to close out the score.

One thing I’ve always liked about Brian Tyler when he’s in this mode is that even though he favours big orchestration with a lot going on, there’s usually a clarity there too – the detail doesn’t get buried. What sets his action scores apart from your typical Remote Control effort is that they don’t sound like orchestrated keyboard music – they’re rich and detailed and that always proves to be more rewarding in the long run. In truth, Ready or Not might be fairly middle-of-the-road for this composer but it’s a satisfying work with enough going on to sustain the album’s run time – there’s always something entertaining and/or impressive just round the corner. Recommended.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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