Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Album Review)

John Carpenter: one man who has told a thousand stories, many with his deeply ominous and emotionally haunting musical compositions. Afraid, relieved, horrified, flabbergasted: Carpenter is known for weaving soundtracks full of highs and lows, moments of shock and moments of peaceful acceptance. Now joined by his son Cody Carpenter and godson Daniel Davies, he has returned with a proud new addition to his oeuvre of music, the 2018 Halloween Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, which arrives the same day as its highly-anticipated film: Friday, October 19, 2018, thanks to Sacred Bones Records.

In 1978, John Carpenter (Escape from New York 1981, The Ward 2010) would direct a little film called Halloween that would change the landscape of Horror forever. As some men have endless talents, Carpenter would also serve as composer for the soundtrack of that brilliant film. There’s really no point in rehashing his career: Carpenter has a rightfully-earned, impressive name in Horror and musical composition. You know who he is, right? If not, school yourself quickly!

When the new Halloween movie hits theaters on October 19, 2018, it will carry with it the distinction of being the first film in the series with Carpenter’s direct involvement since 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Carpenter serves on the new David Gordon Green-directed installment as an executive producer, a creative consultant, and, thrillingly, as a soundtrack composer. For Carpenter, reuniting with original Halloween star Jamie Lee Curtis and composing the score felt like a homecoming. Not only had he not worked on a Halloween movie in 35 years, he hadn’t composed a soundtrack since his 2001 Sci-Fi/Thriller Ghosts of Mars.

Collaborating alongside his son, the equally-talented Cody Carpenter, and savvy godson Daniel Davies, Carpenter continues to work with the two men who helped compose his three recent solo albums – 2015’s Lost Themes, 2016’s Lost Themes II, and 2017’s Anthology: Movies Themes 1974-1998). For this project, however, the trio wished to tread lightly and pay homage to the classic Halloween score that Carpenter composed and recorded in 1978, when he forever changed the course of Horror cinema and synthesizer music with his low-budget masterpiece. “We wanted to honor the original Halloween soundtrack in terms of the sounds we used,” Davies explained. “We used a lot of the Dave Smith OB-6, bowed guitar, Roland Juno, Korg, Roli, Moog, Roland System 1, Roland System 8, different guitar pedals, mellotron, and piano.

The Halloween Soundtrack’s 21-tracks run the gamut of emotions, but all do themselves proud in paying a respect to Carpenter’s original work. The album is ominous from the get-go with the gently pulsating synths that open the collection (“Intro”) and a shortly thereafter build into the “Halloween Theme.” Yes, the one you know and love – but with a slight update to keep it fresh. Here, a beat like a metronome holds the pace for the infamous piano work that makes this one of the most recognizable themes in modern Horror. The delicate dance and weave of the instruments builds a tension, one that makes you want to explode from your seat with absolute joy at the prospect of the new Halloween.

“Laurie’s Theme” presents a short, bittersweet blend of piano, synths and strings, which flows flawlessly into “Prison Montage,” an emotional journey through barred doorways and downtrodden spirits. It’s dark with moments of light, a perfect complement to Michael’s touching, if sadistic, story. Unfortunately, or fortunately for rabid fans, Myers immediately reminds us of what he does best, and the soundtrack appropriately sheds emotion for the darkly ominous, foretelling “Michael Kills” – a short reminder that this guy is not a good egg. In fact, we can already predict a repeat, and so goes the lament of “Michael Kills Again,” a more pensive sound that moves on little cat feet, building toward the depths of depravity and murder. A drumbeat like a steady heartbeat echoes as the mayhem peaks, and then the melancholic piano sets; like a tender pause not quite full of regret.

The ‘80s glitz across your eardrums for “The Shape Returns,” a play on the infamous theme that wanders further afield to explore new nuances that perfectly complement its original core. This continues into “The Bogeyman,” a haunting echo of its predecessor that focuses on piano setting an emotional tone. Amping it back up, “The Shape Kills” depicts a man with a rabid blood-lust hitting the streets, his footsteps alone as haunting as the Tell-Tale Heart. Though all of this brooding madness and manic stalking seems to culminate into a highly-controlled frenzy of emotion and fright on “Laurie Sees The Shape,” a precursor to full-blown panic for our beloved heroine.

“Wrought Iron Fence” is that fear coursing through the blood of our veins – of Laurie’s veins – the echoing stomp down a quiet street at night that whispers of darkness and makes you afraid of the dark. Then, an opportunistic victim is found. In “The Shape Hunts Allyson,” we feel the gruesome reality weigh heavily in our hearts: Allyson’s moments are no doubt numbered. There’s a gentle heartbreak, a sense of delicate grief to “Allyson Discovered,” a quiet moment spent sobbing while cowering in the shadows that fails to save your life.

As all the Tetris pieces begin to fall into place, this builds into the macabre stand-off of “Say Something,” before the evil returns full-throttle for “Ray’s Goodbye.” He is the living embodiment of your gloomiest nightmares, he is Michael Myers and “The Shape Is Monumental.” Here, dark atmospherics weave a rancorous spell that encompasses all that is Myers. It’s gently done as far as compositions go, and that’s what makes its impact all the more haunting.

We begin the great culmination of our story with “The Shape and Laurie Fight,” the showdown between a force of pure evil and the woman whose life he changed irreparably (and not for the better). The score tackles this weighty scene with a reverence, one that, like all of Carpenter’s scores, allows the on-screen action to take center-stage and simply serves to complement this with understated perfection. This continues through “The Grind,” which begins as nothing, the sound of silence. Then, that steady heartbeat’s pace begins and continues to rise, immovably and with a haunting insistence. Something is coming!

The true showdown between good and evil begins with “Trap The Shape,” electronic flourishes that promise that there is an on-screen dance occurring between the two warring sides: and someone is about to lose that battle. This dramatic conclusion is the basis for “The Shape Burns,” a properly fiery and magnificent send-off that will bring tingles to your spine. In fact, ultimately, the spine continues to tingle for the appropriately-titled “Halloween Triumphant,” a farewell that flickers and casts off embers, revisiting that infamous and beloved theme to add new flourishes that are still perfectly awe-inspiring even after all these years. If you hear one song off this soundtrack, then this is it! At over seven-minutes in-length, there is an epic quality to this album closer, the great representation of everything else that came before.

For the new 2018 Halloween Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, John and Cody Carpenter, along with Daniel Davies, pay a respectful homage to the past while happily forging headfirst into the future. There are emotional highs and some fiery lows, but this score follows the trend of Carpenter’s past explorations: harnessing a beautifully understated finesse to complement, but never overshadow, the film that he is scoring.

There is an attention to detail and glorious range of emotions to the tracks, allowing a listener to begin to unfold the story before the film’s celebrated and highly-anticipated release. Of course, we still must see the film itself to experience the true grandeur of this work, but, standing on its own, the Halloween (2018) Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is exactly what one would expect: immediately familiar, perfectly spooky deliciousness for the ears. For these reasons, CrypticRock give John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, & Daniel Davies’ 2018 Halloween Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 5 of 5 stars.

Purchase Halloween: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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