Film scores

Soundtrack review: Lights out (Benjamin Wallfisch – 2016)

“Lights Out” is a 2016 American supernatural horror film directed by David F. Sandberg in his major directorial debut and written by Eric Heisserer. The film stars Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke and Maria Bello. It is based on Sandberg’s 2013 short film of the same name and co-stars Lotta Losten, who starred in the short. Rebecca is worried that her brother, Martin, is being stalked by a spirit only visible in the dark. She links it to past events that may correspond to the events that are haunting her brother. She refers the spirit to her mother’s childhood friend, Diana, who loved the dark. It is later discovered that Diana faced some kind of horrible event that leaves her wanting to do evil things. The score was written by Benjamin Wallfisch, one of the composers I get most excited about.

The reason I’ve liked everything this composer did in the past couple of years is that no matter the genre or the story he adds a personal and emotional touch to the music, something to set it apart from the rest and to make me as a listener connect more easily with it. I get conformation right from the title theme of this score as it feels warmer and more personal than other horror cues. I am enchanted by “Rebecca’s theme” with its dark piano and subtle strings. The music drips emotion in a very James Newton Howard way.

The purely horror moments are gripping and give me shivers. They are not at all pretentious or complex and this brand of horror minimalism works very well for me. These moments contrast with sensitive and heartbreaking pieces like “Help him or hurt her”. When the music is not scary it makes me care for the characters and their story. There’s a shadow of inescapable sadness over this score which matters more to me than the scares the music provides.

While not a typical horror score, “Lights out” provides an enjoyable listening experience with its haunting melodies and cleverly placed attacks of sound. The music feels real and I liked how the minimalistic way in which Benjamin Wallfisch wrote it gave me the impression of a contained space in which the story takes place. It makes it even scarier because it gives me the feeling of no escape.

Cue rating: 84 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 11  / 41

Album excellence: 27%

Highlights:

Keep The Lights Out

Rebecca’s Theme

Help Him Or Hurt Her

Safeguards

No You Without Me

 

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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