Film scores

Soundtrack review: Animals (Ian Hultquist – 2015)

Animals_2400

“Animals” is a story set in Chicago, about a couple who lives in their broken down car parked outside a famous park. They spend their days thieving and scoring until one of them is hospitalized and they need to reevaluate their lives. The score was written by Ian Hultquist and from what I read the composer spent a year talking to the director and screenwriter about the music ideas. Music is said to have been an important part in making the movie so I am very surprised that there’s only 16 minutes of score. I guess the vocal songs are important as well.

The composer sets the mood right from the start. I don’t need to read the synopsis of the movie to understand that the story starts in a very dark and even dangerous place. “Lions” is probably a metaphor for the world that surrounds the two main characters. The electronic pulses make me thing of fiends looking for their fix and the constant throbbing makes me feel alert. What I really love though is the eerie final 30 seconds of this opening cue which are just perfect. I love ambient music like this and that small motif made me tremble.

The tone changes then to a sweet guitar melody and these happier moments must be for when the two characters escape reality. They don’t last long and are followed immediately by the harsh and sharp reality. The ambient sound is back in “Make believe” and I just get lost in it. I would love to have a score which used only that sound. It’s that minimalistic and dreamy sound that makes me want to close my eyes and fantasize. This cue is reflective and deep and I enjoy discovering its every subtlety.

This is the duality that drives “Animals”: the continuous dance between dreamy music and light guitar. The dreamy parts get nightmarish at times but they stay interesting. I prefer the darker parts. The sound is addictive deep and mysterious. It makes the score seem longer that it really is as if the music alters reality.

I guess the most important cue is “The ballad of Bobbie and Jude”. This is the love theme written for our two characters, for their inner world, for what holds them together no matter what might happen in the outside world. The guitar wins the battle with the dreamy sound and even if this theme is simple it tells me a lot. I wish other themes got this developed though. I was rotting for the atmospheric side and I would have really enjoyed to hear those parts expanded upon.

“Animals” was a little too short to make an impact but I enjoyed my time with it. There are some very intense moments in there and, like I said, the score leaves me with the desire to hear more.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 5 / 16

Album excellence: 31%

Highlights:

Make Believe

Window Watching

Just Get Through This

Bliss

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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