THE CURSE OF SLEEPING BEAUTY – Scott Glasgow
Original Review by Jonathan Broxton
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is a Gothic horror film from Singapore-born director Pearry Teo, starring Ethan Peck, India Eisley, Natalie Hall, and Bruce Davison. A dark, modernistic retelling of the classic Grimm fairy tale, the film follows Thomas Kaiser, who inherits a mansion that has been in his family for generations – only to learn that he has also inherited an ancient curse stemming back to the Crusades. The curse surrounds a beautiful young woman named Briar Rose, whose physical form is in a seemingly eternal sleep deep in the house’s bowels, but whose mind is held captive in a terrifying netherworld which Thomas has seen previously in his dreams. Despite being visually splendid – as evidenced by the wonderful imagery on the CD cover – the film has, unfortunately, not proved to be popular with critics, opening in cinemas to muted reviews, and subsequently banished to the dreaded black hole of video-on-demand.
The Curse of Sleeping Beauty is scored by composer Scott Glasgow, who previously worked with director Teo on The Gene Generation in 2007, and who here again re-affirms the fact that he should be much higher on the radars of studio executives when it comes to the quality of his music. As a former student and protégé of both John Corigliano and Christopher Young, Glasgow is very much at home in the horror genre, and his work here sees him at the top of his game. As befits the style of the film, much of the score dwells in a world of almost dream-like ambience, an oppressive mood of mist and shadow. However, the score’s main selling point is the choral work, which Glasgow uses to superb effect throughout the score to emphasize the idea of ‘sleep’, and the terrifying dream-world that Briar Rose exists in during her slumber.
Tonally, much of the score also has a feeling of ancientness, speaking to the nature of the Briar Rose curse, and which Glasgow achieves through both his instrumental choices (viola de gamba, harpsichord, glass harmonica, and the Tibetan kangling trumpet, made from a hollowed human femur bone), and his compositional techniques, which are intentionally based on the ecclesiastical tradition of plainsong, and which gives large parts of the score the feeling of early church music.
Four cues, each titled “Somnium,” highlight Glasgow’s superb prowess in writing for chorus. Glasgow combines the sound of the Johannesburg Vokalensemble with sampled throat singers and the cut-glass sound of counter-tenor Mikael Carlsson – yes, the same Mikael Carlsson who runs the Moviescore Media record label! – and the result is outstanding, unnerving and beautiful at the same time, with multiple layers of unsettling vocalizations being pierced by Carlsson’s unexpectedly angelic, unusually-timbred falsetto.
Elsewhere, Glasgow has a great deal of fun adapting the lyrics of the sacred Catholic liturgical chant ‘Dies Irae’ to suit the specifics of this film, with cues like “The Chamber” and “Mannequins” being of special note for their inventiveness. In “Mannequins” Glasgow has his choir actually shout and shriek the lyrics – let hell swallow them up, let us bring darkness, let us bring terror! – in a wonderfully aggressive manner that hasn’t been heard with this level of intensity since Don Davis and The House on Haunted Hill in 1999.
The rest of the score tends to be built around performances of the two main themes. The first is the Sleeping Beauty theme, which has a similar sense of Gothic power and elegance as Christopher Young’s original Hellraiser theme, and is first heard in the second cue, “The Curse of Sleeping Beauty,” in all its swirling, churning, orchestral and choral grandeur. At several key moments throughout the score Glasgow allows the theme to re-emerge, with the statements during “Kaiser Garden Research” and “The Jinn” being especially satisfying.
The second is “Thomas’s Theme,” which appears throughout much of the score in fragments before being fully realized as a beautiful final statement during the conclusive track, a gorgeous duet between Glasgow’s own solo piano performance, and the emotional cello lines of Armen Ksajikian, one of Hollywood’s most respected session musicians. Despite having more than a passing melodic resemblance to the old Enya song “Boudicea,” the theme is quite beautiful, and Ksajikian’s soulful performance lends it an emotional sensibility which moves between longing romance and desperate sadness. The hints of the theme leading up to that final performance, in cues like “Linda,” “Mysterious Inheritance,” “Moon Cypher,” and the gorgeous “Connections,” are very well conceived.
To enhance the film’s more blatant moments of action and horror, Glasgow dips his toes into some quite vivid and vicious dissonance, brutal collisions of orchestral carnage. Cues like “Billing’s End,” “Descent Into Hell,” “Confront the Demon,” and “The Awakening” are especially impressive in this regard. However, unlike too many of his contemporaries, Glasgow’s action and horror music is not just a never-ending parade of jump-scares and unexpected explosions of noise. Instead, Glasgow’s horror writing is clearly, almost defiantly, musical, with interesting touches in the orchestration – his use of tubular bells is especially noteworthy – and clever changes of tempo and volume.
This is another impressive score by Glasgow who, with scores like Lo, Riddle, Secrets of a Psychopath, and now this one, is really establishing himself as one of the most talented and interesting horror and thriller composers out there today. Although budget constraints forced Glasgow to use samples to obtain many of the sounds and instruments he wanted for his score, it should be pointed out that they are of such high quality that there is virtually no drop in the standard between the live performances and the samples. Fans of Gothic horror music, especially the impressive kind that Christopher Young often wrote, will undoubtedly find The Curse of Sleeping Beauty to be to their liking, and yet again I can only implore any music executive who happens to read this to look in Scott Glasgow’s direction when thinking about your next movie’s composer. His break is now long, long overdue.
Buy the Curse of Sleeping Beauty soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store
- Somnium I (2:59)
- The Curse of Sleeping Beauty (2:30)
- The Chamber (4:35)
- Thomas’ World (1:57)
- Linda (2:26)
- Somnium II (3:36)
- Mysterious Inheritance (3:46)
- Exploring the Basement (2:31)
- Moon Cypher (1:39)
- Kaiser Garden Research (2:42)
- Somnium III (2:15)
- Mannequins (3:41)
- The Jinn (1:49)
- Billing’s End (2:55)
- Connections (4:26)
- Somnium IV (3:16)
- Gateway to Darkness (2:06)
- Descent into Hell (3:50)
- Confront the Demon (1:53)
- The Awakening (2:17)
- Dies Irae (1:40)
- Thomas’s Theme (1:52)
Running Time: 60 minutes 51 seconds
Moviescore Media MMS-16008 (2016)
Music composed by Scott Glasgow. Conducted by Jan Delemark. Orchestrations by Tim Rodier and Nolan Markey. Featured musical soloist Armen Ksajikian. Special vocal performances by Mikael Carlsson. Recorded and mixed by Scott Glasgow. Album produced by Scott Glasgow and Mikael Carlsson.