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Soundtrack review: Pay the ghost (Joseph LoDuca – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Pay the ghost (Joseph LoDuca – 2015)


Joseph LoDuca has had a busy year and that’s a good thing for film music fans. I really liked his “Librarian” score and I am curious about “Pay the ghost”. This is a supernatural thriller based on a short story by Tim Lebbon. A couple’s young son is mysteriously abducted Halloween. A year later, the parents begin to sense his presence in frightening ways. A string of terrifying clues draws them to search for the boy throughout New York, where they uncover ancient secrets and discover a vicious, vengeful spirit. Sounds fun.

Even if it starts quite common with the usual whispers and shrieks and sounds of multiple insect feet moving fast on walls and floors and even with the broken piano, “Pay the ghost” pleases me because I was in the mood for a good horror score. A few months ago we were getting quite a lot of them but there’s been a break lately. “To the portal” changes the mood completely and goes full, pounding electronic. It’s a wild cue which I will surely remember. I am quite surprised by how electronic some of the pieces sound. “Tenured” could very well have worked for a horror video game in the 90s. There’s a bit of nostalgia for me in this one.

The score works because Joseph LoDuca doesn’t keep it contained in that little box that says “horror film music”. He actually builds a haunted house with his notes, complete with rooms like “Fun house” or “The little pirate” which are fun and varied. In the horror way, of course. The sounds are strange and all over the place but this makes the score interesting and I can’t wait to hear what other surprises the composer has in store for me. The music doesn’t stay in one place and I like following it. There are weird marching band sounds. There are purely electronic and ambient cues.

Then we leave all this behind and hide in the darkness Joseph LoDuca creates. I shouldn’t even say hide because we don’t need to move. Darkness is everywhere; it’s thick, textured and has many layers. You can never get bored listening to this score because there’s always something around the corner ready to change the mood. There aren’t specific cues to highlight or themes that will stay with me after the score is done; what works for “Pay the ghost” is the variety and the general atmosphere. A cue like “Charlie visits home” will haunt you for days. Sometimes I don’t even need more than an interesting and challenging score. This carnival of sounds might just be my favorite way of scoring a horror movie. This was an hour very well spent!

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 30 / 67

Album excellence: 45%


To The Portal


The Little Pirate

The Psychic

Charlie Visits Home

The Portal Song

No Time / I’ve Got You / Let’s Go Home



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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