Film scores

Soundtrack review: The diabolical (Ian Hultquist – 2015)

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“The diabolical” is a horror film about a single mother (Ali Larter) and her two young children who are tormented by an increasingly strange and intense presence in their quiet suburban home. She turns to her scientist boyfriend to take on the violent forces that paranormal experts are too frightened to face. The score was written by Ian Hultquist who I know from the interesting score to “Animals” from earlier this year. October is a proper month for horror scores, of course. This is a long mine, almost 70 minutes and usually that’s a lot for a horror score.

From the first few cues it seems that this will be an atmospheric horror score. The problem with this is that if I am not reviewing it at night, in the dark, fully focused, it will not have the same impact. Or, should I say, it would need a lot more to make me feel something or scare me. That’s why in my index for ranking scores I have a special note called “horror factor” which I give to the scores who really frighten me no matter the outside conditions. The main theme “Diabolical” seems like a step in the right direction with its terror buildup. The next cue is ambient melodic (“You know the way”) and this score already has its rotting head above the rest a little bit.

My initial thoughts have to be altered because as the music progresses the outside setting seems to not matter as much; Ian Hultquist goes full ambient mode, the good kind, my kind… Some people have a soft spot for epic fantasy movies… other for pounding action… me, I’m very inclined towards atmospheric pieces, the kind that help me reflect and dream. And yes I find a lot of them in “The diabolical”. They make sense among freaky cues like “The kitchen” or   . The moments when the music focuses on the kids and their innocent world are simply magic and I wasn’t expecting to find this kind of gems in this score.

I drift away in my favorite dream land and I’m sorry for you horror fans, but this is actually a beautiful musical experiment which will appear to other senses… the horror parts are subtle and very well blended with the lighter parts and this makes the score very believable and natural. There’s nothing forced, the composer doesn’t try to extort or provide cheap thrills. This is a clever and sophisticated composition. The music burns slowly as if something was decaying in its own rhythm in a forgotten place. There are enough scores where I rush through some cues but not here. I feel the need to settle into the atmosphere of “The diabolical” and take it all it. This sound knows me and I know it. This is definitely the kind of album I will keep close and return to in some winter afternoons where I want everything to be still and frozen.

If you want a classic horror score, look elsewhere for it. If you are looking for an interesting, smart and textural misty and mysterious score to gwet lost in, this is it. I’d recommend it to anyone. And my worries in the beginning about it being too long? Forget that too. Could have listened to hours of this.

Cue rating: 91 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 37 / 66

Album excellence: 56%

Highlights:

Diabolical

You Know the Way

The Greater Stopping Force

I Could Sell My Comics

Mom and Jake Are Fighting Again

Keep an Eye

Walking Through Walls

Black Veins

Psychosomatic

He Didn’t Leave Because You

Dirty Laundry

Aftermath

Project Echo

Preparing for Battle

Decelerating Over Time

Sacrifice

Staring Blank Space

 

 

 

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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