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Soundtrack review: The Belko experiment (Tyler Bates – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The Belko experiment (Tyler Bates – 2017)

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“The Belko Experiment” is a 2016 American horror film directed by Greg McLean and written by James Gunn. The film stars John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, and Melonie Diaz.. In a twisted social experiment, eighty Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia, and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.The score was written by Tyler Bates.

Now if I were to have a movie with a frantic violent pace Tyler would be at the top of my list because he knows how to write rock and industrial / electronic mayhem. He proved it with the John Wick scores and with his work with Marilyn Manson. The key word here is darkness, suffocating darkness and I start feeling uncomfortable right from the first cue “Security”. It’s not madness yet, just suspense with a constant ticking pace that starts picking un in “The building is sealed”. This is the industrial discomfort I was expecting from Tyler Bates. In “Strange situation” I hear that special thick metallic ambient sound that had so much success in the Charlie Clouser’s scores for the “Saw” franchise. The music is quieter than I expected but maybe the movie is based more on suspense than on violence. The downside of this is that the score doesn’t always work as well as a standalone listen as it does in the movies because dense suspense like this needs a bit of support from the images.

Tyler Bates turns his music into grounded glass which he spreads on the floor and walls before turning off the lights. There is barely anything melodic in this score because, of course, a melody would be warm and pleasant to hear and it would ruin the atmosphere of terror. The story relies on the unknown, unknown of the situation, unknown of the reactions of the others and Tyler Bates expresses this through his music by experimenting with different sounds; while the general soundscape of the score stays the same, there are the little extra touches in almost every cue. There are times when the sound gets almost unbearable, so extremely efficient, like in “One body short”.

“The Belko experiment” wasn’t a horror score per se, more of an atmospheric score where the atmosphere is as comfortable as a barbed wired bed. The music was written specifically for this movie and I am sure I will enjoy it even more in context. I imagine though the movie will be even bleaker than expected considering how little moments of emotion this score had.

Cue rating: 77 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 3 / 29

Album excellence: 10%

Highlights:
The Building Is Sealed
Rooftop Anarchy

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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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