Film scores

Soundtrack review: Backcountry (Freres Lumieres – 2015)

backcountry

„Backcountry’ is an acclaimed Canadian survival horror about, of course, two friends who venture into the dark side of the wild during a hike and naturally encounter a dangerous dude and a bear very attached to its territory. Plot sounds familiar (well, except the bear). Why do people always choose to hike in dangerous areas? All this trouble could be avoided. Anyway the score was written by up and coming duo “Freres Lumieres”, a duo of multi instrumentalists.

A good horror score is always welcomed. And if it’s experimental, even better. The opening of “Backcountry” evokes to me the wilderness where the story will take place. “Writing from the grave” has that country guitar / banjo mood blended with a grungy sound which probably introduces the two characters who are intruders in this landscape. This is a very interesting opening cue.

Once we are in we are introduced to the dangers of the land. The music gets moody and ambient and gives me the sensation of a vast and empty territory. I always enjoy a good atmospheric cue and “Backcountry” delivers. I sense cold and harshness as if everywhere I looked there was sharp rocks or tree branches. Most of them are barren because it must be that season just before winter. I like a score with rich texture. Some scores I spend half an hour with before feeling something but this one is rich and layered and I am already right in the middle of the dark story it creates. I know the relationship between the two main characters deteriorates as the movie advances but it didn’t sound too jolly to begin with.

“Bear paw” is still ambient but so dark it sends chills up my spine. The cue is ominous and uncomfortable and doesn’t leave any doubt as to how wrong things might get. “What’s that smell” gets even darker and I hear a patter or things deteriorating in this score. This is one of those compositions where the communication between composers and listener (at least in my case) works flawlessly. There’s no mistaking the message Vince Nudo and Dan Watchorn want to send. They do so clearly and with an arsenal of instruments and sounds that create a dark and dangerous world around me. I am in the middle of the story and I am starting to get worried about the outcome. Even when they describe “The attack” they go for depth instead of loudness and it’s even more efficient.

“The chase” is even better. Yes it gets more alert at times but still muffled by the surrounding nature. The music never leaves the clear confines of what could be considered the real main character of the story, the wilderness. “Still running” is ambient music at its best and spills into “Flare dance” which is actually quite dreamy. I discover something to like in every cue.

“Backstory” ends up as a very interesting and enjoyable listen. The brand of horror it promotes is textural and intelligent. The composers don’t rely on cheap thrills or sudden changes of sound but instead go for a dark grungy atmospheric score that’s much more rewarding. This one is definitely worth a listen.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 15 / 30

Album excellence: 51%

Highlights:

Backcountry

Bear Paw

Night Sets In

The Chase

Still Running

Jen’s Theme

 

 

 

About the author

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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