Film scores

Soundtrack review: The girl in the photographs (Nima Fakhara – 2016)

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If you like your horror scores industrial and uncomfortable or if you are into hearing something different and experimental, you will enjoy this one.

“The Girl in the Photographs” is a 2015 American horror film directed by Nick Simon and executive produced by Wes Craven. A bored young woman in a sleepy community called Spearfish starts receiving photographs of brutally murdered young women. Are they real or staged? The culprit is either a serial killer or some creep with a sick sense of humour. Peter Hemmings (Penn), a hipster celebrity photographer who has traveled back to his hometown of Spearfish, South Dakota with a pack of models, intent on copying the killers’ intense and unapologetic artistry and use it for an important ad campaign. When he learns Colleen is their muse, Peter resolves to make her his own and use her as the centerpiece of a photo campaign in Los Angeles. The score was written by Nima Fakhrara.

Right from the start I like how the composer uses some nervous string motifs in the background to induce the feeling of agitation and fright. No matter what happens with the music there’s also that constant vibration in the background which makes me think that something’s coming up; it doesn’t let me be calm or relaxed because danger lurks. The score doesn’t let the light go through and every now and then after i lured me closer with its whispers it shouts in my ears and scares me.

The music gets warm when it introduces us to the main character Coleen, with a quiet piano theme. The community might be sleepy and Coleen might be bored but her theme shoes me that there’s a lot hiding inside her. The sweet piano tune turns industrial and uncomfortable soon enough. Her theme is like a idyllic house with flowers in the windows and a very dark basement.

The score feels like sandpaper most of the time. The music is somehow crumbled into very small pieces that are all sharp and dangerous and always trembling as if there was a common thread linking them and connecting them. “The girl in the photographs” has a fascinating sound which I haven’t heard very often. It reminds me in parts of the distorted instrumental experiences of Trent Reznor or Nine Inch Nails, with tormented motifs placed over a beautiful and deep piano melody. The contradiction between that warm piano core and the neurotic outside works for me.

Sometimes though the score feels a little too quiet and I have to concentrate really hard to hear the music. It doesn’t happen often but there were times when I found myself at full volume and still having to focus. Then again there are cues like “Passacaglia” which stirs me and makes me feel all the pain of the scene it was written for.  This is as epic and loud as this score gets.

“The girl in the photographs” works on an atmospheric level, as a whole, and it’s hard to identify separate cues as highlights. If you like your horror scores industrial and uncomfortable or if you are into hearing something different and experimental, you will enjoy this one.

Cue rating: 75 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 10 / 45

Album excellence: 24%

Highlights:

07 Passacaglia

13 Light Bulb

23 The Truck

24 End Credit

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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