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Soundtrack review: Happy death day (Bear McCreary – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Happy death day (Bear McCreary – 2017)

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“Happy Death Day” is a 2017 American slasher film directed by Christopher B. Landon and written by Scott Lobdell. It stars Jessica Rothe and Israel Broussard. The film was produced by Jason Blum through his Blumhouse Productions banner, and follows a college girl who is killed on her birthday, only to keep waking up the previous morning. She then sets out to find the killer and stop her own murder. Bear McCreary wrote the score in what’s already been an extremely busy and successful year for him.

A dark comedy horror score from Bear is something I will always sign up for since this is one of the composers who has the most fun writing film music and this combination of smiles and frights is right up his alley; the first four cues of the score describe the first four days she wakes up and “Day one” is light and mostly comedic. I like the tender melodic motifs that usually pop up in romantic comedy scores while here they blend with the subtle threat of horror. It’s a nice start, kind of a warm up for what I would expect comes next. Since there are only 8 cues on this score I expect things to start getting serious soon but the composer takes it’s time until about the middle of day 3 sitting in these lukewarm musical waters.

Then come the most interesting parts of the score: the horror moments when Bear uses his own 3 year old baby girl’s voice and giggles to scare us; he recorded his little girl (I have a daughter of the same age and I know what a bonanza of sounds she can be) laughing, giggling, talking and modified and altered those seconds to turn them into creepy sounds. This is why Bear McCreary is one of the most popular and in demand composers: he innovates, he’s not afraid to experiment and he instantly switches the mood of this score until “Day four” is almost all scary before a melodic tone down at the end. I imagine the mood swings in the music are meant to give us listeners a feeling of the movie and its duality. For me the minutes where the score stabilises in stabbing strings horror mode are the best; these parts give the scores a coherence and an identity. The problem sometimes is that inside the same cue the music varies too much and as soon as I get invested in a horror motif for example it stops and something lighter comes up. In this light, my favourite cue from the score is “The bell tower” because it keeps the frights going from beginning to end and Bear knows how to write powerful horror music. I just turn up the volume for this one and run with it. I love a cue that pushes to the max regardless of the mood it offers. “The bell tower” is relentless and even Herrmmanesque in atmosphere. Here as well the modified cries and whispers of his little girl work wonders.

A creative force such as Bear McCreary’s sometimes produces uneven scores as he wants to do so much and mixes a lot of idea in the same composition; “Happy death day” is one such score and the way it’s written makes me think that it will be even more enjoyable in the context of the movie as it follows the movements of the script. For me, the horror cues were worth it.

Cue rating: 84 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 10 / 40

Album excellence: 25%

Highlights:
Day Three
Day Four
The Bell Tower

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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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