Film scores

Soundtrack review: Blackwood (Lorne Balfe – 2015)

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“Blackwood” is a classic, regular ghost story. A college professor relocates to the countryside with his wife and young son and instead of the fresh start he was looking for, things get evil and complicated. This is Lorne Balfe’s 7th score of 2015 already (that I know of) and the others have been just delightful. We’ve had animation, sports dramas, war epics and space movies. Time for an old fashioned horror score I guess. Lorne’s versatility is well known so I’m not worried about this one. I see a few monster cues down the line, in fact half of this one hour long score is made from just four tracks.

The opening with the organ and string combo reminds me in a wonderful way of dozens of scores I’ve listened to last year du ring “Polish composer month”. It has that cathedral darkness which works so well because it opens up a lot of possibilities. The beginning of the story is mysterious but not at all scary. I recognize the sound; I am very familiar with it. It echoes back to scores like “What lies beneath” from Alan Silvestri or even James Newton Howard’s scores for M. Night Shyamalan movies. It sounds as if Lorne has been doing scores like this for ages.

“First night in Blackwood” is where the mood changes. This is a ghost story and the music reflects that: it’s atmospheric and it slowly surrounds the listener like a thick, dark fog he can’t escape from. The changes in pace are poignant and decisive. “Olivia Warner” alternates between quiet strings and piano and a loud cascade of feelings the kind which will always leave a mark.

I enjoy getting lost in the dark and mysterious haunted house that Lorne Balfe built. I get completely immersed in this musical story and I feel as if I am reading a captivating book at a remote cabin in the mountains. Hours could pass before I would feel the need to take a break. The soft piano notes sooth me while the tense and scary moments are more exciting than anything else. It’s rare that I hear a score that makes time stop or become forgettable. Listening to “Blackwood” is like being in the middle of a dream that you know it’s not real. You are able to control it though and this makes things all the more exciting even if the dream could very easily become a nightmare.

“Six chimes” is the 9 minute climax of the story and it is absolutely beautiful. This cue is melodic, meaningful and interesting and it’s the best use of an organ I’ve heard since Hans Zimmer’s “Interstellar”. I have no idea what happens on screen but anything goes when I listen to this cue… It could be a creepy chase scene; it could be the big revelation or even a character’s dream. Whatever it is, it sounds wonderful. I know it’s part of a ghost story but this piece sounds so warm an tender at times that I just want to wrap myself in it and sleep tight. I don’t care if it’s just an illusion. It’s too sweet not to be indulged.

The movie’s plot might not be the most original but Lorne Balfe’s “Blackwood” is a special kind of score. It’s has an appealing darkness you will have a hard time keeping away from. It’s an intimate and deep score and you don’t get a furious string cue like “Cadenza” every day. That one alone is worth the price of the score. Welcome once again Lorne Balfe inside your soul. He keeps coming with different stories covering the entire range of feelings you could think of and this is why he is one of my favorite composers. Just keep them coming, Lorne…

Cue rating: 89 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 40 / 58

Album excellence: 69%

Highlights:

A Masked Boy

Olivia Warner

Worry

An Explanation

Six Chimes

Some Aren’t Meant To Be Together

Cadenza

Blackwood

 

 

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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