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Soundtrack review: Dogged (James Griffiths – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Dogged (James Griffiths – 2018)



Directed by Richard Rowntree based on his 2015 short film, Dogged is a horror that deals with the sins of the past and their effects on the present. When Sam returns home to the tidal island where he grew up to attend a funeral of a young girl, he soon realizes that the community he had once left has changed considerably. He soon uncovers disturbing secrets about his former home and the seedy underbelly of the small community harbours more than just a few secrets. James Griffiths wrote the score and he’s always an exciting name for me, even since his fantastic “The drift” score a few years ago.

The score opens with “The dogged waltz” and, as you might expect, it’s a twisted, almost dissonant piece where the sweet violin tries to hide the hacking string sounds in the background. The cue then dissolves into discomfort and leaves no doubt as to what the atmosphere of this score will be. Most horror movies have an opening passage that describes the idyllic, or at least normal life the characters used to have before whatever tragedy happens and so most of “Home” is deceitfully melodic. Most of it, since at the end once again the music derails; this score is written as if there were two parallel universes, two worlds colliding, one with melodies, one where suddenly everything crumbles and the music is replace by uncomfortable noise, scary, aggressive. “Eastpoint” opens with a few such seconds before the violin and the piano create a soothing atmosphere.

James Griffiths is not shy about those sound effects that brutally strangle the melodies and this creates a contrasting effect in his score; I like how the composition is constructed, I enjoy this duality and I get lost in those piano and string motifs, moody and reflective, before the short circuits throw me out. Also as the score progresses the music gets more poignant, the piano and violin are played louder, more aggressively as well. As I get sucked into this atmosphere the setting of the story, a remote and creepy English village, become clear from the music; I feel the darkness, the coldness in some pieces and I start to get chills up my spine also from the melodic moments. This is that “Hounds of the Baskervilles” atmosphere, the moors, everything I grew up reading and watching about those places. Maybe it’s just me but this is what the music evokes.

The composer went all in for the horror story which could prove risky in regards to the standalone listening experience, for some listeners at least. Luckily he covered all that in a melodic coil, beautiful and warm, which is enough to balance those other moments. He creates a meaningful and affecting atmosphere, the kind a movie like this needs to make its point even clearer. Congrats to the soloists who anchored this composition. “Dogged” was a bit longer than it needed to be and would have worked better with a reduced run time, something like 40,45 minutes of the best parts. Regardless, those melodic, melancholic orchestral passages surely make it worth your while to listen to it on its own.

Cue rating: 71 / 100

Quench Not the Spirit
Cult, Pt. 2

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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