Film scores

Soundtrack review: Poltergeist (Marc Streitenfeld – 2015)

POLTERGEIST

“Poltergeist” is one of the most famous horror movies of all times. Steven Spielberg was the driving force behind this story about angry spirits invading a family’s suburban house and kidnapping their little girl. I remember the movie; it was quite scary and intense. As was the case with many classic successful movies, this one gets a 2015 remake which is produced by Sam Raimi and this should be a guarantee for a good scare. I haven’t heard the Jerry Goldsmith’s score for the original, even if it’s one of his most beloved. The new one is written by Marc Streitenfeld who is one of my favorite composers to emerge in recent years. Haven’t heard a horror score by him yet and it will be interesting to see how he deals with the story. His music is often low key so it might just fit.

The opening is surprisingly enchanting. I expected to hear chimes in a score like this one or to have that weird music box effect but not is such a beautiful setting. When the spirits start coming you can tell it’s a modern effect score. The composer chose to introduce them with a very interesting static sound and the music gives me the feeling of something materializing out of thin air. “They’re here” is quite frightening and eerie. The same sound effect is used to simulate the electronics awakening in the house.

I have instantly connected with this score because Marc Streitenfeld doesn’t waste time and gets right to the simple and scary business. I don’t need more from a horror score, and since I don’t have a previous emotional connection with the original score, this one works very well for me. I like that it’s efficient and stripped of a lot of extra weight. When the kids are center stage the music chimes and feels intimate and innocent. When the outer world matters the music gets wider and feels almost like sandpaper. The composer never forgets the melodic factor and “Poltergeist” flows like a strange dream with twists, turns, scares, hopes and a need for protection.

When the score is scary, like in the infamous “Clown attack” or “Somebody is with her”, it hits the target. Usually if I hear a horror score in the middle of the day it sort of loses its effect. Somehow Marc Streitenfeld manages to induce the feeling that I’m alone at night in an unknown and very dark house. Actually, I get the feeling that I am in that house and that the outside world is far away and almost unreachable. The composer makes the music feel personal and I am hiding in the close with the kids or running from the spirits. This is the best feature of Marc Streitenfeld’s “Poltergeist” for me: it feels focused and it makes me understand the story. I had the same sensation when I heard James Newton Howard’s magnificent “Signs”; there aren’t a lot of motifs, there isn’t much variation but it works because the story didn’t need anything else. “Poltergeist” is about angry spirits attacking a house and scaring kids and adults alike and I feel as if the music collected all their separate sensations and worries and laid them out on notes.

Marc Streitenfeld delivers once again. Even if fans of the original Goldsmith score will frown and maybe dismiss this one, I really enjoyed it and I am sure a new generation of film and music fans will find a way to connect with it.

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 16 / 43

Album excellence: 37%

Highlights:

Poltergeist Opening

They’re Here

They’re Not Pretend, Mommy

Clown Attack

Somebody Is With Her

Into The Portal

Let Her Go

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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