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Soundtrack review: Hold the dark (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Hold the dark (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2018)

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“Hold the Dark” is a 2018 American thriller film directed by Jeremy Saulnier from a screenplay by Macon Blair. It is based upon the novel of the same name by William Giraldi. It stars Jeffrey Wright, Alexander Skarsgård, James Badge Dale, Riley Keough and Julian Black Antelope. After the deaths of three children suspected to be killed by wolves, writer Russell Core is hired by the parents of a missing six-year-old boy to track down and locate their son in the Alaskan wilderness. Brooke and Will Blair wrote the score.

I have a serious thing for movies set in the winter wilderness so this one is definitely on my list. Besides, they usually have poignant, minimalistic scores that are also right up my alley. There are surely horror elements in this one as the composers show me right from the opening, title cue. The reflective goods follow immediately with “Drive to Keelut” and I am enjoying the electronic vibe; the music is oppressive enough to evoke the setting of the story. The atmosphere is dense and affecting; the music is more layered than I expected and it grinds away at my sanity with tortured cello motifs that enhance the already pressing mood.

As the score and story progress the tone gets darker and borders with horror; it’s the constant, sometimes invisible brand of horror. There are no melodies in this score, there is no warmth, just ominous tones weaved from various sound effects and instruments, often building up to match the increase in the heart pulse. There are also vocal effects, nothing more than growls and grunts that make the score feel even more visceral. The music gets to a point, in “Sloane gets ready” where it reminds me of what I consider to be the peak of suffocatingly tense film music of recent years, Johan Johnannsson’s “Sicario”.

The quiet menace of “Hold the dark” makes an impression outside the context of the movie as well; this music is not for the faint of heart of for the lovers of melodies. Brooke Blair and Will Blair crafted a thick, uncomfortable texture and the only thing close to a release comes with “Take off and landing”. Before that release, towards the end I wished the score would be over already, not because the music was bad, but because how it made me feel. I think this means the two composers reached their purpose.

Cue rating: 67 / 100

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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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