Home > Reviews > DARKNESS FALLS – Brian Tyler


January 24, 2003 Leave a comment Go to comments

darknessfallsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Traditionally, horror movies have given enthusiastic young composers an opportunity to “show what they are made of” and demonstrate their orchestral know-how to the world at large. Unconstrained by the demands of subtlety and studio interference, and working in a genre where music is perhaps more important than in any other, these ambitious men and women have regularly begun their careers writing for stalk and slash, knife-wielding stories, honing their craft, and demonstrating their talents. Over the years, the likes of James Horner, Christopher Young and (more recently) Marco Beltrami have embarked on their career ladder by scoring serial killer movies and monster flicks – and now Brian Tyler can be added to this list. It’s been quite a while since we had a balls-to-the-wall horror score on our hands. Darkness Falls is one of them.

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman, and starring Chaney Kley, Lee Cormie and Emma Caulfield (from TV’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Darkness Falls tells the rather gruesome story of a woman, famous for collecting the teeth of small children and exchanging them for gold coins, who was wrongly accused of kidnapping two small children 150 years ago, and subsequently lynched for her troubles. Swearing vengeance on the community that murdered her, the ghost of the woman now returns to the town of Darkness Falls to collect the first lost baby tooth from every child – and kills any of them who dare emerge from their blankets to look at her. As a child, Kyle Walsh (Kley) supposedly survived an attack by the Tooth Fairy, in which his mother was killed, and was committed to an asylum thereafter. Now all grown up, Walsh returns home to help his former girlfriend Caitlin (Caulfield), whose young brother Michael claims that the Tooth Fairy is coming for him…

I actually really enjoyed the movie – on the basis that is has no pretensions of being anything else than a Friday night scary thriller ride. The Tooth Fairy herself is a wonderful creation, a combination of Stan Winston’s innovative designs and special effects (all wild hair and ragged robes), and truly terrifying sound design. It’s not often you feel the need to mention sound effects editors in their own right, but the work of Randy Thom, Scott Guitteau and Jason Jennings here is simply superb. You hear the Tooth Fairy’s ragged, wheezing breath well before you see her, making her all the more menacing. The lead actors are all decent enough in their roles, doing the best they can for the genre, and Joseph Harris’s story establishes a convincing back-story and generally eschews horror movie conventions.

Brian Tyler has had a stellar 2003 – as well as this score, he wrote the music for the epic mini-series Children of Dune, impressed director William Friedkin with The Hunted (a difficult thing to do!), and replaced Jerry Goldsmith on Richard Donner’s Timeline, to be released later this year. The grandson of a Hollywood set designer, Tyler only began his scoring career in 1997, but with several critical successes, looks destined to become one of the “big boys” before much longer.
Things get off to a great start on the CD with the opening track, ‘Evil Rises’, which sets out its stall from the get-go: loud, frenetic, fast-paced, and filled with all manner of innovative orchestrations and instrumental flourishes, including a staccato 11-note motif that acts as a recurring “action theme”. This is thick, dark, dramatic, wonderful stuff: music that simultaneously blasts you out of your chair with power, while wowing you with its orchestral complexity and depth.

Further cues, notably ‘Eye Contact’, ‘A Bit Crispy’, ‘Stay in the Light’, ‘We Are Not Safe in Here’, ‘That Has Got To Hurt’ and ‘Meet the Tooth Fairy’ continue this trend, with Tyler allowing his music to flow around the orchestra, letting it breathe and grow, occasionally to mammoth proportions. He injects earth-shattering stingers into several cues, maintains a rapid tempo throughout, uses his electronics frugally and intelligently, and occasionally displays such youthful bravado and audacity of orchestration (solo fiddles? chiming bells?) that one is simply stunned.

Quieter moments come by way of ‘Interrogatorio’, ’25 Words or Less’,  ‘Consultation’ and ‘The Mask’, moody cues that generally rely on quietly shifting tones and moody restatements of the central theme to unnerve and unsettle the listener. The traditional love theme -a prerequisite to counterbalance all the carnage – is understated and brief, limited to gentle piano and woodwind melodies in ‘One Kiss’ and ‘Blood Red Herring’, but this is not to the score’s overall detriment. The action music more than stands up on its own.

The thing one notices about Brian Tyler is that he is a product of his time, and that all his musical influences are from the film music world rather than the classics. As such, we get plucking strings of reminiscent of Danny Elfman, throaty brass blasts right out the Goldenthal canon, slashing violins that are part Chris Young and part Bernard Herrmann, brief hints of James Horner’s early works, and a haunting main theme that sounds like a distant cousin of Jerry Goldsmith’s Hollow Man. This is not to say that Darkness Falls is derivative in any way – the Goldenthalian brass is probably a result of Tyler using Robert Elhai as an orchestrator, but the rest of the music is simply steeped in modern orchestral horror music traditions, adhering to familiar patters but with Tyler’s personal spin.

For fans of good quality orchestral horror music, this is truly wonderful stuff. Darkness Falls is a spine-tingling, hackle-raising, relentlessly thrilling assault on the auditory senses, and one which admirers of the genre would be foolish to miss. Brian Tyler is a name for the future: a name which, if his early promise does not precipitate a false dawn, will surely be at the forefront of high-quality, high-profile film scoring for many years to come.

Rating: *****

Track Listing:

  • Evil Rises (2:25)
  • Darkness Falls (2:33)
  • Eye Contact (1:50)
  • Interrogatorio (2:12)
  • A Bit Crispy (1:20)
  • 25 Words or Less (1:40)
  • Stay in the Light (1:21)
  • Lose a Tooth (1:31)
  • Der Zylinder (2:58)
  • One Kiss (1:56)
  • Let There Be Light Sort Of (1:06)
  • We Are Safe in Here (0:38)
  • We Are Not Safe in Here (0:41)
  • Aftermath (1:28)
  • Overhead (0:56)
  • Consultation (2:10)
  • Utter Darkness (1:28)
  • That Has Got to Hurt (1:24)
  • Kyle and Michael (2:28)
  • Perception Tank (1:38)
  • Blood Red Herring (0:43)
  • Meet the Tooth Fairy (2:47)
  • Reading the Legend (0:42)
  • Is This Kyle Walsh? (1:51)
  • The Mask (1:02)
  • End Titles (7:07)

Running Time: 48 minutes 21 seconds

Varése Sarabande VSD-6449 (2003)

Music composed and conducted by Brian Tyler. Orchestrations by Robert Elhai, Dana Nui and Brian Tyler. Recorded and mixed by Jeff Vaughn and Brian Tyler. Edited by Joe Lisanti and Gary L. Krause. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by Brian Tyler.

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