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Soundtrack review: The nun (Abel Korzienowski – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The nun (Abel Korzienowski – 2018)

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“The Nun” is an upcoming American gothic supernatural horror film directed by Corin Hardy.The screenplay by Gary Dauberman is from a story by James Wan and Dauberman. It is a spin-off of 2016’s “The Conjuring 2” and the fifth installment in “The Conjuring” series, and stars Demián Bichir, Taissa Farmiga and Jonas Bloquet. In 1952 Romania, a Catholic priest and a novice are sent by the Vatican to investigate the mysterious suicide of a nun at the Cârța Monastery. Abel Korzeniowski wrote the score.

Well these days vampires and supernatural beings are the only ways my country Romania appears in movies. I haven’t seen any of the Conjuring movies but I did listen to Joseph Bishara’s scores and as good as Abel is he has some big shoes to fill, horror wise. On the other hand he did score all seasons of “Penny Dreadful” and those three albums were nothing short of amazing, with a unique romantic horror sound and, well, almost all of his compositions got a perfect score from me. The opening cue “God ends here” is in the perfect, impossibly elegant Abel sound, a gothic melody that’s almost optimistic in sound, with a subtle choir that builds up into a creepy one and a furious violin. The growling at the end lets me know that the composer means business when it comes to scaring me. Since it’s mr Korzeniowski we are talking about though, there’s bound to be some sort of romance and “Sister Irene” brings that with a beautiful and tender violin motif.

As scary as the music gets with the growling and the somber choir there is also the melodic undertone, the elegant orchestral motifs that shine through among the scares and chants and make this a multidimensional score. There are no gaps in the music as the breaks in horror are filled with meaningful passages. As the abbey has it’s rooms and its dark corridors and basements so the composer makes sure he builds the same structure with his music. The melodies are deceiving because they give hope in an otherwise terrifying composition. Abel doesn’t rely on cheap and sudden scares; his music evokes a constant maleficent, menacing presence that might not be corporeal but is very real. Even the passages where there is no melody and sparse and scary sounds dill that void make for an enjoyable standalone listening experience.

I like the vocal work on this score, be it the growling, the throat singing, the scary choir or the female whispers; I have no idea how they recorded these to make it work so well but as I am listening to this score, against the composer’s advice, in complete darkness, I constantly turn my head to find out where the whispers are coming from. “Anything but holy” or “Branded by the demon” literally make my skin crawl with misty evil.

I would call “The nun” the scariest and most atmospheric score Abel Korzienowski has written. The master of melodies that he is set them aside almost completely for once (you will still recognise him in pieces like “Handmaid of God” and contained his music in fragmented shards that fly towards me from all directions. This score is simply chilling from start to end, hopeless except for some short melodic motifs and another jewel in the Korzeniowski crown.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Highlights:
God Ends Here
Sister Irene
The Abbey of St. Carta
Valak
Anything But Holy
Corridor of Crosses
Perpetual Adoration
Branded by the Demon
Handmaid of God
Deliver Us from Evil
‘Cause I Have Faith

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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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