Film scores

Soundtrack review: Cell (Marcelo Zavros – 2016)

cell

“Cell” is a 2016 American science fiction horror film based on the 2006 novel of the same name by Stephen King. The film is directed by Tod Williams with a screenplay by King and Adam Alleca. The film stars John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, and Isabelle Fuhrman. When an electronic signal is broadcast across mobile networks worldwide, cell phone users are instantly and dangerously re-programmed into rabid killers. Heading north through New England to find his estranged wife and son, Clay Riddell is joined by a group of survivors to battle the horde of murderous “phoners” as their world descends into apocalyptic madness. I like it that these two fine actors team up again for a Stephen King adaptation, after “1408”. Marcelo Zavros wrote the score and it was a surprising choice or me.
The main titles convince me that I shouldn’t worry; a vibrant and scary cue welcomes me into the musical world of “Cell”. The trembling strings which play as if they were scared themselves meet the quiet piano in a psychotic duet of instruments. “Flock chase” comes at me simple and implacable and I feel the need to run and hide. This is efficient and point blank horror scoring, the kind that doesn’t rely on subtleties to make its mark but rather on a direct and relentless pursuit of the listener with a repetitive sound.
The story is about a cell signal infiltrating itself in victim’s minds. The composer expresses that with his music as the cues are simple and thin. The music takes the shortest path to the target and I like that. It reminds me of how Marco Beltrami sometimes treats horror score. The music feels electric and gives me the sensation of propagation which is just the main driver of the story.
Marcelo Zavros uses the character developing moments for breaks in the frantic sound of “Cell”; “Son on phone”, “Alice” and “Son’s voice” are slower pieces which I also use to catch my breath. Suspenseful cues like “Two dead girls” add to the uncomfortable atmosphere of the score. I like the balance between quiet and alert because it gives me the feeling of a real life situation.
I liked “Cell” more than the other Marcelo Zavros scores from the past year. His writing style compliments this story and genre very well and I was quite entertained, if getting scared and worried can be considered entertainment. I loved the poignant use of the piano throughout the score and “Kashwalk” ends up as my favorite piece from the album.

Cue rating: 86 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 43
Album excellence: 39%
Highlights:
Main Titles
Flock Chase
Son on the Phone
Kashwalk
Son’s Voice
Clay’s House
The Hive (Part 2)

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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