Film scores

Soundtrack review: Sensoria (Frank Ilfman – 2016)

sensoria

“Sensoria” is a classic haunted house psychological horror where memories of the past unravel disturbing things about the present. Co-written and directed by Swedish filmmaker Christian Hallman, the story follows the life of Caroline (Lanna Olsson), a woman in her late thirties who has lost everything and is searching for a new beginning. She moves into an old apartment and starts to realize that she is not as alone as she thought she was. Frank Ilfman wrote the score.

A story like this creates some mental imagery of the music even before I hear the score. These types of movies have a certain sound and have been having it for years, because it works. The main theme of “Sensoria” makes me nod my head in satisfaction both for being right and for listening to a beautiful cue. There’s the haunting childlike voice, there’s the slow and moody instrumental part and there’s the eerie atmosphere that bleed naturally into the next cue “Mr. Steiner”. This cue is even more elegant thank the main theme. The background vocals are still there, the piano mesmerizes me and there’s a certain dark sensuality in the way it drips.

The elegant mood of the score is interrupted when things start to get creepy. “Watching you” keeps the dark tone of the score but adds a bit of an uncomfortable industrial vibe. This blend of creepy and melodic works very well also in the next cue “The child”. The piano is slow, sad and poignant and this is the first heartbreaking moment of the score. The female voice in the background which appears just for a few seconds is haunting.

Frank Ilfman sets a very complex atmosphere. Things don’t move a lot in this score but for me it helps with the impression of memories from the past resurfacing as if something was stuck there trying to get out. The music doesn’t have a lot of place to move so it goes deep. The scary moments are cleverly done but I am more attracted to the warm melodic pieces. They speak more to me and that piano gets to me every time. I like how it’s used throughout the score, from the cues where it’s front and center subtle inserts like the ones in “Image in the mirror”.

I like smart and elegant horror scores like this one. The frights are not in your face, they are carefully build into the score and the emotional content helps me connect even better with the music. And that piano…you can’t go wrong with that. “Sensoria” is another reason to keep my ears open for Frank Ilfman, after “Abulele”, even if it was quite different.

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 15 / 40

Album excellence: 37%

Highlights:

Mr. Steiner

The Child

Flashback

Another World

The Trip

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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