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Routine modern horror score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Spyglass Entertainment Group, LLC; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
With the high-profile Alien: Resurrection and Dante's Peak coming early in his career, John Frizzell seemed destined for bigger and better things in 1997, but since then he has seemed to slightly fall off the map, scoring a string of much lower-profile films, many of them horror films. He has certainly been keeping himself busy, though - the string of horror films include 13 Ghosts, Ghost Ship and now Stay Alive, in which a group of beautiful young people (wouldn't you know?) start dying in remarkably similar ways to the characters in the video game they'd been playing. To say the least, it did not get good reviews.
Being used to scoring this kind of film, Frizzell certainly does what you might expect him to do in the music: the piercing string bursts, suspense sequences with high-register violins creating an atmosphere of dread, sudden brassy jolts out of the blue and heavy use of mysterious electronics, all occasionally punctuated by soft piano melodies (and one really lovely violin piece, "Butch's Story"), are exactly what this sort of film generally gets. Of course, that's not to say it's bad - there is nothing offensive here - indeed, it is all rather effective and I'm sure it works very well in the film. Frizzell extracts a lot of tension from the raw materials, and some of the action sequences are genuinely exciting (the brief "End of October" in particular).
The main problem with the music is that, really, it's all been heard so many times before. There's nothing really new here - of course, the actual melodies are, but the style is now feeling rather tired. Frizzell manages to keep things more interesting than in many similar scores by other composers, but frankly he's proved himself on this sort of film, and I was far more interested in and impressed by his completely off-the-wall music for The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio a short while ago.
Stay Alive is the debut release from a new record label, Nicabella Records, headed up by Ray Costa, whose PR firm has promoted film composers over many years. This seems a slightly strange score to choose as the first release, but being limited to 1,000 copies I'm sure it will sell out, and hopefully Costa's contacts with composers should see releases of some decent music going forward.