SOUND OF HORROR
by Tim Ferrante
(This review originally appeared in The Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope magazine.)
WOLFEN Music composed and conducted by James Horner. 13 tracks, 46-mins, Intrada Special Collection Volume 185 $19.99
Intrada’s soundtrack CD release of Michael Wadleigh’s furry killer thriller, Wolfen, showcases one of James Horner’s earliest film scores. His contemporaneous film composer influences - Jerry Goldsmith is oft-cited as the primary - gave him such creative energy that fans continually revisit this period for their choice Horner listening pleasures. His surrounding assignments were nearly all genre films (i.e.; Battle Beyond the Stars, The Hand, Humanoids from the Deep, et al.), but Wolfen was unique in that another composer, Craig Safan (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master), had already recorded a complete score. It was eventually rejected when studio heads replaced the production’s decision makers. Horner was able to meet a tight 12-day deadline (including its orchestration!) and quickly supplied what some would point to as a self-plagiarized work. The fact of the matter is that he was damn good and knew precisely what he was doing amidst whispers that he did more self and external borrowing than actual composing. The music was foretelling as many of its passages, orchestrations and tempos could be mistaken for his brilliant Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan score, right down to Craig Huxley’s then popular blaster beam electronic instrument. Nevertheless, the quality of Wolfen’s otherworldly music is stunning, especially if you love weighed brass and exciting strings with your werewolves. By providing powerful music that both suited the project and was simpatico with producer’s wishes, he smartly stayed true with other successful motion picture compositions of the period. The movie’s final cut even incorporated musical portions from The Hand, but don’t expect those moments on Intrada’s CD. The label worked from what it describes as “mint-condition complete ½-in three-track stereo session masters” which explains why this disc sounds so good. Lest we mention that Horner himself supervised its production. The disc includes two interesting bonus tracks featuring alternate arrangements of Track 7 (“Rebecca’s Apartment”) and Track 11 (“Epilog and End Credits”) as well as the company’s always excellent booklet and package design. Wolfen is awash in classic Horner signatures developed during the composer’s steady rise to film music superstardom. For those who discovered him via his bestselling song from Titanic, “My Heart Will Go On” or the more recent Avatar, Wolfen offers a decidedly different listening experience. It’s one that solidly constructed the bases on which subsequent Academy, Grammy and Golden Globe Awards would be mounted.