Home > Reviews > FEAR STREET, PART ONE: 1994 – Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp

FEAR STREET, PART ONE: 1994 – Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

One of the unexpected hits of the summer of 2021 was Netflix’s Fear Street, a trilogy of horror-thriller films based on the popular young adult novels by R. L. Stine, directed by Leigh Janiak. The first part of the trilogy is set in 1994 in the town of Shadyside, which has been plagued by murders and atrocities for hundreds of years, while neighboring Sunnyvale is safe and prosperous. Following yet another murder, this time at the local mall, Shadyside teenagers Deena (Kiana Madeira), and Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), Deena’s brother Josh (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and their friends Kate (Julia Rehwald) and Simon (Fred Hechinger) come to believe that the city is cursed, and that a legendary ancient witch named Sarah Fier is responsible. However, as the teens dig into the history of the curse, they find themselves plunged into a nightmare where their own lives are at stake. The film is a fun update of 1990s slasher movie horror tropes with plenty of pop culture references – director Janiak is married to Stranger Things co-creator Ross Duffer, natch – clever ideas, and blood-soaked gore.

The scores for all three Fear Street movies are by Marco Beltrami, with co-composer credit going to one of his various regular collaborators on each one: Marcus Trumpp on 1994, Brandon Roberts on 1978, and Anna Drubich on 1666. In many ways, this is a return to his roots for Beltrami, who famously got his break into film music scoring Wes Craven’s Scream in 1996, the tone and self-awareness of which is partially mirrored in these films. Beltrami quickly established himself as one of film music’s great young horror composers during the late 1990s and into the 2000s, and he continues to score films in the genre, but it’s been a while since he has been given the opportunity to go back and write in the style that gave him his big break. Recent horror scores like A Quiet Place, Underwater, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and others, have been very much rooted in the modern horror style of Penderecki-style dissonance punctuated by screeching stingers; Fear Street is much more a ‘classic’ horror score in that there are identifiable themes, more rambunctious action sequences, and moments of traditional orchestral and choral beauty to enliven the sound.

One other issue Beltrami on Fear Street had to deal with was the song soundtrack, which is packed to the gills with period-appropriate pop and rock classics from everyone from Nine Inch Nails, Iron Maiden, Radiohead, and The Prodigy to Soundgarden, Alice Cooper, and Rob Zombie. Making an impression amid all this was never going to be easy, but Beltrami succeeded admirably with a series of brilliant and bold action set pieces, as well as moments of genuine thematic depth and beauty. The score opens with a bang with the “Mall Massacre,” which begins quietly and moodily with some eerie string textures and little harp glissandi, but soon erupts into a cacophony of orchestral violence filled with roaring brass outbursts and shrill, emphatic, explosive string runs. At 2:48 Beltrami presents the first performance of the recurring main theme that, as the trilogy develops, becomes an overarching theme relating to Shadyside and Sarah Fier, the people she apparently ‘possesses,’ and the repeated tragedies that result from the curse. It’s a lovely, sweeping, almost romantic theme that is able to be applied to different settings and convey different meanings depending on context.

The “Main Titles” adopt a modernistic vibe, with unusual layers of different vocal styles, and an electronically distorted version of the Sarah Fier/Shadyside theme that roots it very much in the pop musical conventions of the mid-1990s. Sampled screams and record scratches complete the retro sound, and the whole thing ends with a vivid orchestral flourish that leads into the score proper. Thereafter, Beltrami’s music oscillates between quiet, moody orchestral passages that insinuate that something is not quite right in Shadyside, and all out bloody musical carnage that absolutely confirms that something is not right in Shadyside. Cues like “Morning in Shadyside,” “Some Creeper,” and “Reminder of Us,” use soft piano and string textures, ominous fluttered woodwinds, and subtle allusions to the Sarah Fier/Shadyside theme to put the listener in a state of general unease. “Candlelight Vigil” features a notable version of the theme for a female vocalist/solo cello duet that is lovely and haunting, while “Reminder of Us” incorporates what sounds like a sample of a train crossing warning bell, to unusual effect.

Everywhere else Beltrami really lays in on the action, and the resultant effect is very impressive indeed. Cues like “Stop the Bus,” “Skullmask,” “Bathroom Blowout,” “Sam Bait,” “Berman is the Key,” and “Market Massacre” reverberate with rich, dense, complicated horror action scoring, but it’s not the loud, stinger-based stuff or the endless Joseph Bishara drones that have come to dominate contemporary horror scoring. Instead, this is the classic, tonal, boldly arranged horror writing that people like Jerry Goldsmith, Christopher Young, and others used to write twenty or thirty years ago, and it’s wonderful to hear it come back so proudly here. Listen to the thunderous percussive rhythms in “Skullmask,” the clever incorporation of the Sarah Fier/Shadyside theme in the middle of “Sam Bait,” the howling Elliot Goldenthal-esque trombone writing and rhythmic chanting in “Berman is the Key,” and the delicious, rhythmic, almost dance-like string passages in “Market Massacre,” which grow so powerful and vicious they are likely to take the top of your head off. You can hear every instrumental texture, properly orchestrated and finely detailed. It’s all just fantastic, exciting horror scoring of the highest order.

Running through all this action is a sort of whining, moaning instrumental sound effect which seems to represent the appearance of the various ‘killer ghosts’ that attack the protagonists. Meanwhile, “Goode in the Woods” introduces the light, friendly, almost comedic 4-note woodwind-based theme for Sunnyvale Sheriff Nick Goode, as he conducts his investigations into the ghastly proceedings; this idea returns re-arranged for guitars in “Sheriff Goode,” and will play a much greater part in scores going forward.

The score’s big finale comes in “Bring Her Back,” the heart-stopping moment where Deena – having intentionally drowned Sam in a lobster tank in order to break the curse – frantically tries to revive her with a whole bag full of epi-pens. Beltrami uses a soaring statement of the Sarah Fier/Shadyside theme to enhance the emotional anguish of this moment – something which also reinforces the recurring feminist concept in the screenplay, and across all three films, about women sacrificing themselves, and saving each other, to spite the men who would wrong them and do them harm. The subsequent “See You Tonight” is both a bittersweet reflection on the carnage that preceded it, and the recognition of the warmth in the blossoming romantic relationship between Deena and Sam, before the final terrifying action stinger in “Sam Attack” leaves you on a cliffhanger heading into the trilogy’s second instalment.

Anyone who fell in love with Marco Beltrami’s music through his Scream scores, or his concurrent horror works like Mimic, The Faculty, The Watcher, Blade II, or Hellboy, will be absolutely delighted to find that Fear Street: 1994 is very much a return to that style of scoring. It’s one of the most enjoyable, unpretentiously entertaining horror scores Beltrami has written in quite some time, a superb combination of thematic strength and full-blooded orchestral butchery that truly engrosses from start to finish.

Buy the Fear Street, Part 1: 1994 soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Mall Massacre (3:54)
  • Main Titles (2:08)
  • Morning in Shadyside (2:01)
  • Candlelight Vigil (3:17)
  • Stop the Bus (1:37)
  • Goode in the Woods (1:51)
  • Some Creeper (1:59)
  • Skullmask (2:47)
  • Sheriff Goode (2:46)
  • Reminder of Us (3:42)
  • Bathroom Blowout (2:32)
  • Sam Bait (2:28)
  • Berman is the Key (2:30)
  • Market Massacre (6:27)
  • Bring Her Back (2:12)
  • See You Tonight (1:33)
  • Sam Attack (1:27)

Running Time: 45 minutes 04 seconds

Milan Records/Netflix (2021)

Music composed by Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp. Conducted by Gavin Greenaway. Orchestrations by Rossano Galante, Dana Niu, Edward Trybek, Henri Wilkinson and Jonathan Beard. Additional music by Brandon Roberts. Recorded and mixed by Sam Okell and Tyson Lozensky. Edited by Brett Pierce and Erica Weis. Album produced by Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp.

  1. radzimir123
    July 29, 2021 at 2:34 am

    Can’t wait for another parts of Fear Street scores.

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