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Soundtrack review: Venom (Ludwig Goransson – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Venom (Ludwig Goransson – 2018)

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“Venom” is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Columbia Pictures in association with Marvel, and distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing, it is intended to be the first film in Sony’s Marvel Universe. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer from a screenplay by Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner, and Kelly Marcel, and stars Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock / Venom, alongside Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, and Reid Scott. In Venom, journalist Brock is bound to an alien symbiote that gives him superpowers. Venom is a fictional character appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics, commonly in association with Spider-Man. The character is a sentient alien Symbiote with an amorphous, liquid-like form, who requires a host, usually human, to bond with for its survival. After bonding with a human host, the Symbiote bestows its enhanced powers upon the host. When the Venom Symbiote bonds with a human, that new dual-life form usually refers to itself as “Venom”. Ludwig Goransson wrote the score.

Goransson did a great job inventing the Wakanda sound for “Black Panther” and I was curious what he could do with Spider Man’s foe, another role where Tom Hardy satisfies his fetish of having most of his face covered in some way in a movie. “Space exploration” is the first cue and naturally any composer worth his salt will take on how own version the iconic “Alien” sound. Ludwig goes for depth in his atmospheric mix, a more modern, pulsating type of horror. It gets uncomfortably and almost unbearably noisy towards the end but it’s quite effective. I am scared right of the bat. He also adds just enough old school horror, think Bernard Herrmann and a bit of Johan Johannsson pulsating tension to make this opening cue count. I like it that just as for “Black Panther” this composer isn’t content to just providing a support for the movie, he creates a soundscape, a musical world on its own with innovative, experimental sound combinations ranging from electronic to choral, all wrapped up in a terrifying cocoon. I listen to “Symbiots arrive” and it’s chilling the way the music marches closer and then gnaws at me.

Experimental is the key word for this score as well and I am enjoying the fascinating mix of modern and retro sci-fi horror. The music blends this aggressive and unforgiving horror sound with a warm sensitivity and I guess this is the composer’s brilliant way of evoking and making us as listeners experience first hand the painful duality of the main character, the mild mannered journalist vs the ferocious alien. Goransson’s way of representing the alien in sound reminds me of what Johannsson did for “Arrival”; that one was all about communicating and creating a new language while here it’s taken a bit further, towards the extreme; it’s still sound effects, metallic, alien like, contrasting with the warmer human sounds of known instruments like piano or electric guitar.

The best cues are those when the doubts are cast away and the duality is absorbed by aggression. A piece like “Run, Eddie, run” raises the hair on the back of my neck and makes me want to turn the volume way high and also try it for my adrenaline running playlists. “What’s wrong with me” is another intelligent piece where the sound effects mimic some sort of desperate and confused cry for help. This cue also includes some sounds that make me imagine that slimy symbiotic life form taking someone over; it’s positively creepy.

The journey of listening to “Venom” is a rollercoaster; there’s a straight up spectacular rock cue “Pedal to the metal” that I can’t get enough of and once again the composer mixes industrial, barbed wire like sounds with horns and aggressive strings for a most interesting and enjoyable fusion. There are no breaks in this score, no filler moments, no boring passages; if the movie is half as exciting I am in for a treat. I am sure that enough moments from “Venom” might be a bit much for some listeners, especially those searching for melodies or a narrative thread. Trust me, there are some exhilarating passages which more than make up for it. But this is the character, this is the story, and Ludwig Goransson once again shows a keen ear for crafting a unique soundscape. “Venom” is a clever, fascinating and ultimately visceral score which shows once again that this composer is one of the most inventive around, always bringing something different and exciting in his music.

Cue rating: 80 / 100

Highlights:
Space Exploration
Run, Eddie, Run
Pedal To The Metal
Battle on the Launch Pad

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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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