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Soundtrack review: The strange ones (Brian McOmber – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The strange ones (Brian McOmber – 2018)



“The Strange Ones” is a 2017 American drama film directed by Christopher Radcliff and Lauren Wolkstein and written by Christopher Radcliff. The film stars Alex Pettyfer, James Freedson-Jackson, Emily Althaus, Gene Jones, Owen Campbell and Tobias Campbell. Mysterious events surround two travelers as they make their way across a remote American landscape. On the surface all seems normal, but what appears to be a simple vacation soon gives way to a dark and complex web of secrets. Brian McOmber wrote the score.

The composer surprises me right away with a main theme that’s flute based, tender and mysterious in the same time and I must admit I was expecting something darker and more uncomfortable to welcome me into this score; I like it when a composer gives me a pleasant surprise from the beginning. Of course darkness and discomfort come right away and for a fan of minimalistic, textural music like I am this is just what I want to hear; the music is quiet but dense and the first scary cue of the score, “Home”, has a very nice echo at the end. I am intrigued by Brian McOmber’s decision to warm up his sound with that flute / woodwind motif that recurs throughout the score; it plays hide and seek with me and it might be the theme for the two travellers as the normal guys stepping into an abnormal land. I like a score that not only makes me feel but also makes me think.

Yet it’s all about the ambient sound; my softest of musical spots is ambient music, of various genres but especially of the quiet reflective type which I promptly find in “Under water”, the warm core of this composition. When the tone changes and that dense, opaque texture returns the music affects me and reminds me of the darker moments of the music of “Twin Peaks”, the forest, the Black Lodge; it’s that kind of continuous, menacing, almost static like sound that gives me the impression of being blind in a place where everything wants to attack me and I can’t make out the sounds around me.

The woodwind motif makes me think of an Amazonian jungle and this sets the landscape of the movie quite nicely; it might not take place in a jungle but the composer make me feel the danger and the unknown terrain just the same. “The standoff” is a musical experiment, a sonic improvisation that makes me fret; Brian McOmber could have gone generic dark thriller for this score and be done with it but he wrote his own story and this makes for a very enjoyable and haunting standalone listening experience. It’s also not easy to make a 22 minutes long score, and even more so a minimalistic ones, this complex and layered; the music feels like a journey and I am getting to experience what the characters feel through the score. The music scares me, worries me and soothes me as I take a breath with that haunting and addictive woodwind motif that makes the score feel alive, modular and unexpected.

“The strange ones” is a very concentrated dose of both ambient and neurotic music. The composer makes me doubt my emotions and take on what he suggests me through his music and that is a tall order. Brian McOmber has my attention from now on as he says abundantly much with very little.

Cue rating: 93 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 18 / 23

Album excellence: 79%

The Strange Ones
The Old Motel
Under Water
The Cabin
The Stand Off
The Farm
Alone on the Dusty Road

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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