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Impressive horror score beautifully contrasts light, darkness

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Album cover copyright (c) 2005 Impact Pictures LLC; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall

A somewhat standard-sounding horror movie, The Dark sees a couple visited by a child who seems to be their dead daughter (with the child herself claiming to have died 60 years ago).  It's got a good cast (Sean Bean, Maria Bello) and is the first horror film I know that's set in Wales, but that didn't seem to be good enough to wow either critics or audiences.  Director John Fawcett has worked mostly in television before, and the same is true of composer Edmund Butt, most familiar to audiences of British tv shows like Murphy's Law and Life on MarsThe Dark is his most notable full-length feature to date.

Before starting composing full-time, Butt orchestrated for the likes of Trevor Jones and George Fenton, and in common with other orchestrators-turned-composers, his mastery of the orchestra is what is immediately striking about this fine score - there's none of the bog-standard Hollywood horror score cliches here, which so often see the occasional orchestral blast punctuating what seems like hour after hour of synthetic droning - instead we get real music, well-composed and realised.

There's an echo of Christopher Young (today's finest composer of this type of score) here, which of course is no bad thing.  Butt's main theme is one of those clever ones which is both spooky and beautiful at the same time, and he uses it cleverly throughout.  Late on, in "Sea Rescue", the theme simply soars away and becomes one of the most exciting pieces of its type I've heard in a while; and the final piece, "Can You Be My Daddy?", is a wonderful example of light trying to emerge from the darkness.  Equally striking is the dissonant material, with brass writing benefiting from richly-detailed orchestration, lending it a bone-chilling feel which is just perfect.  Butt sometimes turns this into brutal action music, with vague hints of John Corigliano (or Elliot Goldenthal!) - so good to hear such complex music in a comparatively low-budget film such as The Dark.

This is the thirteenth release from MovieScore Media and is one of their finest yet.  The download-only albums spotlight little-known scores from (often) little-known composers, and the label has become remarkably adept at identifying such scores which are genuinely worthy of release.  I can't imagine the market is particularly big for things like this, due if nothing else to the obscurity of both film and composer, but there's no doubt that the label and its founder Mikael Carlsson are doing a great job in showcasing that, no matter how much mainstream film music might frequently seem to be in the pits, outside the mainstream there is still so much quality (would you like to compare this music with that written for Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2?)  A fine release - highly recommended.


  1. The Dark (3:26)
  2. Imprisoned (2:34)
  3. Sarah's Drowned (3:01)
  4. Ebrill (4:34)
  5. Behind Closed Doors (2:46)
  6. Father and Daughter (2:56)
  7. Chased to Barn (3:24)
  8. History Tells Us So (3:16)
  9. Welsh Legends (2:45)
  10. Sea Rescue (2:24)
  11. Torture (3:31)
  12. Can You Be My Daddy? (3:06)