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Artwork copyright (c) 1999 Dreamworks LLC; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Excellent creepy horror score


Much derided by critics on its release, The Haunting probably suffers most by comparisons with Robert Wise's film of the same story over thirty years earlier; strictly on its own merits, it's really not that bad, and I'd much rather watch it than yet another dire teen slasher film.  Its biggest problem is that the characters (with the exception of Lili Taylor's Eleanor) are very badly drawn, and reasonable actors are given very little to work with.  Jan de Bont directs things with flair and, to his credit, doesn't rely on visual effects alone to carry things along -  he effectively builds tension the old fashioned way, and even when the effects do come towards the end they're not the "kitchen sink" variety.

Jerry Goldsmith's score is excellent.  It was overlooked on its release, but comparing it to any other horror score of the last couple of decades you quickly begin to appreciate just how much better it is than any of them.  The movie is chilling rather than outright scary for the most part, and so Goldsmith follows suit, but when the terror comes, he lays it on brilliantly, with infinitely more aplomb than all the composers who just have electronic atmosphere followed by a few bars of brass stings to frighten the audience.

The album begins with "The Carousel", a wonderful calliope piece, delightfully catchy and strangely compulsive yet ominous at the same time.  The second half of the cue introduces the main suspense theme, far more interesting than you might expect.  "Terror in Bed" is the first horror music, a loud and exciting piece that showcases another of this album's greatest assets - the wonderful recording, by Bruce Botnick and Bobby Fernandez, with a truly cavernous, enormous sound designed to add further to the chills.  When the brass are blasting out, echoing around, it's a wonderful sound.  The main theme is introduced in "A Place for Everything", a simple but attractive melody for Taylor's character.  "Curly Hair" sees the first use of a horror motif very similar to a secondary one the composer had previously included in his classic Poltergeist, along with some beautiful flute-based suspense material.

"Return to the Carousel" is another great cue, with the trademark Goldsmith intelligent action/chase music getting a suitably chilling twist, before reprising the carousel music from the opening piece, this time accompanied by some scary orchestral stuff.  "Finally Home", six minutes long, is dark, foreboding, menacing, growling. There are a few moments when all hell breaks loose. These moments are so much more effective because they come after protracted moments of calm. You know something is just around the corner, and Goldsmith teases you and teases you before he finally pounces. You know it's coming; you wait and wait. You're terrified. Then it comes. It is the best track.  What makes it so good - and so much better than those aforementioned scores which amble along and then suddenly attempt to scare by having an enormous orchestral blast - is that the piece remains so musical, it is not forced when the blasts do come (and come, they do), everything is put together so neatly.  "Home Safe" is a nice finale, a touching reprise of Eleanor's theme.

As with everything he does, Goldsmith's score for The Haunting was dismissed out of hand by the majority of critics.  I'm not entirely sure why people are so vitriolic in their dismissal of Goldsmith's work.  Had anyone else written a score even half as good as this one for this movie, the world would have been proclaiming the dawning of a new A-list talent; since it was Goldsmith, most people didn't even bother listening to it.  Well, that's their loss - this is a first-rate score.  Goldsmith's work in the horror genre has always surpassed everyone else's - and that's just as true here.

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  1. The Carousel (2:54)
  2. Terror in Bed (5:34)
  3. A Place for Everything (3:17)
  4. The Curtains (2:37)
  5. Curly Hair (3:09)
  6. The Picture Album (4:48)
  7. Return to the Carousel (3:09)
  8. Finally Home (6:16)
  9. Home Safe (3:16)