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Soundtrack review: The canal (Ceiri Torjussen, 2014)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The canal (Ceiri Torjussen, 2014)


The Canal tells the story of a man and his wife, who move into a beautiful period house by the canal with their small child, Billy. As the husband begins to suspect that his wife is cheating on him, he also starts to have nightmarish visions of an evil presence he believes inhabits his home. Sounds like a horror movie to me. I was unfamiliar with the work of Ceiri Torjussen, but he’s apparently well known in the scoring community.

The first cue, “Body fishing”, is atmospheric and foggy. I liked it. The second cue though gets positively creepy. It’s different than anything I’ve heard, because it incorporates strange creaking noises…I think I can hear a boat constantly touching the pier, or wood cracking, but everything is still musical, the noises blend with the music and just work! “David’s fury” gets even scarier and I think I can hear his heart beating all through the cue. Strangely, the score doesn’t make me think of my favorite horror compositions or movies, but to The X-Files. The beginning is that kind of creepy.

It’s a very good period for atmospheric and minimalist scores. “White bird in a blizzard”, “Gone girl”, “From inside”, and now “The canal” all sneak up on us and cover us like a thick mist. “The canal” is different from the others though, because it has a clear objective: to scare the hell out of the listener. The atmosphere here isn’t dreamy, or tense; it’s a “run and hide or you’ll be killed by 1000 different evils you won’t even see” kind of mood. If the movie is half as creepy as the score, I’m not sure I want to see it. The music is intense, menacing, startling, the composer does everything right. It is one of the scariest scores I have ever listened to. I can’t even single out separate cues because they all work as a whole. There isn’t one cue that scared me the most, because each of them attacks in a different way, with a different sound. It’s like you have to hide from a million different things. The instruments sound distorted and each track seems alive. The cues are actually creeping around me, touching me, brushing against me, messing with my head, never letting me calm down.

“Washing the blood” deserves a special mention, because it reaches a new level of scary. It’s a very exciting cue to listen to, if you’re into frights. The final part of the score starts there, and it’s almost unbearable to hear. “Dead babies” achieves in less than one minute what tons of other horror scores can’t do in 50.

“The canal” sounds as if evil doppelgangers of every instrument took over the orchestra and started playing. You won’t recognize any of the instruments under their evil masks. Listening to this score was strangely exciting for me; even if once it ended I needed time to recover. I don’t scare easily, not watching horror movies at least, and this music made me feel alive. It reached inside me, grabbed my spine and froze it. But each time a cue ended, my heart started pumping like crazy again, warming me up and rushing all the blood back to my head. I count this as one of the most interesting listening experiences of the year, and I definitely recommend this score…if you are into creepy music and if you don’t scare easily. Otherwise, tracks like “Killing Claire” or “The sewer of the mind” might just give you a heart attack.

Cue rating: 76 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 33 / 51

Album excellence: 65%

Cues to listen to (at your own risk):

David’s Fury

Horrendous Hotel

Washing The Blood

Dead Babies

Killing Clare

The Sewer Of The Mind

Body Fishing

Alice Search 1

Putrid Premonitions

Hair And Dirt

The Lady In The Grass


By The Old Bleak Stream

Canal Improvisation

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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