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Soundtrack review: The haunting of Hill House (The Newton Brothers – 2018)

Best of 2018 perfect scores TV

Soundtrack review: The haunting of Hill House (The Newton Brothers – 2018)

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“The Haunting of Hill House” is an American supernatural horror television series created by Mike Flanagan. It is based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson, and premiered on Netflix. The Haunting of Hill House takes place in two timelines. One is set in flashbacks to the summer of 1992, when Hugh and Olivia Crain temporarily moved into an old mansion, Hill House, along with their five children: Steven, Shirley, Theodora (Theo), Luke and Eleanor (Nell). They experience paranormal occurrences and tragic loss, forcing them to move out of the house. Over 20 years later, in the lingering aftermath of the hauntings, the Crain siblings and their estranged father, Hugh, reunite after tragedy strikes again, forcing them to confront their inner demons from their shared childhood while mourning their losses. The Newton Brothers wrote the score.

In the past 3, 4 years the horror genre has know such a fleury of releases that not a week goes by without a horror score; I imagine it’s getting harder for composers to come up with new ways to scare viewers and listeners but as a fan of horror music I welcome their attempts. “The haunting of Hill House” feels different right from the start (actually, right from reading the track titles and seeing four movements for “The beginning of the end”) because it feels like a concept album more than random cues attached to scenes from the TV show. I just immerse myself in “Come here” which is an ambient piano piece, lonely and poignant that makes me want to go wherever it invites me, even if it’s a haunted house. There’s melody, there’s melancholia and the music is already haunting from the second cue. I’d call that job well done for The Newton Brothers. As a fan of ambient and reflective music regardless of the medium for which it’s written, the way this score develops in its opening cues is just stunning. There’s also a bit of nostalgia in the way the music moves and with that cello undertone as an added bonus, I am hypnotised.

When the piano stops it suddenly get chilli and I get that this is a horror score; what better way to describe a haunting than by dark, misty music and insane hacking strings. For me the concept of haunting has two elements, feeling that presence with signs and the actual attacks. The music simply addresses both of them so for me, even without seeing the show yet, the story takes form. But it’s the velvety piano mood that embraces me and makes me feel unreasonably comfortable; there’s nothing other than smooth texture in those cues and since this sound is so addictive to me, from the first press of the piano key to the last trembling of the bow on a cello, I am all in for the elegant horror moments as well.

If the score for “The haunting of Hill House” was a book I would use that cliche that “I couldn’t put it down”. If this were a book I would have read it cover to cover almost without breathing. It’s not a book, it’s music, it’s a TV score, one hour long, and it’s superb.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Highlights:
The Haunting of Hill House (Main Titles)
Come Home
Larks and Katydids
Darkness and Chaos
That Night
Take Her Down
Whatever Walked There, Walked Alone
Hill House
Go Tomorrow
Science vs. Religion
What Did You Really See
The Red Room
Missing Things
I Believe You
12:00 A.M.
In the Shadow of Ghosts
I Want to Wake up So Badly
Luke
Approaching the House
Haunted Past
You Remember
Feel Nothing
Beginning of the End Movement I
Beginning of the End Movement II (Tea Party)
Beginning of the End Movement III
Beginning of the End Movement IV
The End

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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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