Home > Reviews > SUPERCELL – Corey Wallace

SUPERCELL – Corey Wallace

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Every once in a while I find myself scrolling through my TV’s list of movies-on-demand, agog at the number of films on there that I’ve literally never heard of. Half of them are low-budget action and sci-fi movies, made by former stars who have dropped off the 1980s and 90s A-List and are now hovering somewhere between the C-List and the D-List. A bunch of them star Bruce Willis. A bunch of others all seem to feature Frank Grillo. It’s very easy to just scroll past them mindlessly, until eventually they get lost in the endless streaming void. At first glance, Supercell is one of those movies; it’s an action movie about tornadoes, with a director I’ve never heard of (Herbert James Winterstern) and a pair of leads (Daniel Diemer, Jordan Kristine Seamón) who are similarly unknown to me. Those with a more ghoulish sensibility may stop for a second look because of two of it’s supporting actors: it’s the last film Anne Heche made prior to her grisly death in a car accident in August 2022, and it’s also one of the last films Alec Baldwin completed prior to him starting work filming Rust, the now-notorious project where he shot and killed his cinematographer, Halyna Hutchins, in an on-set accident. Beyond that, however, this film would usually never give me pause – except that, in this instance, one thing IS worth stopping and considering: the score.

One of my favorite things about doing what I do is when I am presented with a score by an unknown composer and it absolutely blows me away. Supercell is one of those scores. It’s by a 40-year-old Illinois-born composer named Corey Wallace, about whom I knew absolutely nothing else. His IMDB page indicates that he worked for Christopher Young for several years as a younger man, and then he was (and possibly still is) a member of Bear McCreary’s team at Sparks & Shadows. He has written additional music for several of McCreary’s high-profile film and TV projects including The Walking Dead, Snowpiercer, and Agents of SHIELD, among others, and then he has upwards of 70 solo credits to his name – mostly low budget features and short films – but I have seen none of them, and heard none of his music for them. However, such is the quality of Supercell, that I can’t help but wonder whether a ‘next big thing’ is emerging here because, frankly, it’s outstanding, one of the best fully-orchestral action scores I have heard in quite some time.

In an interview with Jason Hellerman for the website No Film School, Wallace says “For Supercell, we aimed for a return to classic, orchestral film scores that have memorable, hummable themes. Director Jamie Winterstern and I grew up on the movies of the ’80s and ’90s, so we really wanted to return to that aesthetic. The goal is to sweep audiences away with emotions of wonder, love, death, and adventure, and leave audiences humming a tune as they leave the theater. We drew stylistic inspiration from greats like John Williams, Alan Silvestri, and James Horner (and we’re not shy about it), but we worked extensively to make sure the themes are unique and specific to our story.” He goes on to say that “the scoring style of Supercell has not been the industry norm over the last 10 years”, but that writing scores with big orchestras and melodies was the reason he got into film scoring in the first place – and that love of classic film music shines through in spades.

The score was recorded in Budapest with a full symphony orchestra and – just as Wallace suggested – the whole thing is an homage to several classic adventure scores of the 1980s, with special emphasis on the work of John Williams. The music is beautifully orchestrated, rich, textured, layered, interesting to listen to in terms of the depth of the sound, and is full of proper dramatic emotion. Sometimes it’s exciting, sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s romantic, sometimes there’s a sense of nervous trepidation, and sometimes it almost adopts horror undertones, but through it all Wallace never moves away from it’s thematic, melodic core. It’s so refreshing, so exciting to hear music like this from a composer like him. This kind of thing used to be the rule, rather than the exception.

“I Did It For You” is the score’s main theme, a beautiful and elegant piece that begins softly but eventually emerges into something much more sweeping, with an unashamedly sentimental sound that I just adore. In film context the theme appears to relate to the main character, teenager Will, and his memories of his late father, legendary storm chaser Bill Brody, but is also pulls double-and-triple duty, acting as a love them for Will and his girlfriend Harper, and as a sort of family theme for Will and his mother Quinn. It appears frequently throughout the score – it is especially prominent in “One-One-Thousand-Two-One-Thousand,” the tender and intimate “Mother and Son,” the wonderfully heroic “First Supercell,” “Ghost of a Giant,” and several others – but Wallace also takes pains to insert elements of it all throughout the work, and it is often embedded into action sequences as a thematic anchor. Later, its performance in “The Kid Is Here” is charming and wholesome, with lightly darting woodwind accents lending the cue a sense of whimsical comedy.

“William’s Escape” is one of the score’s first main action sequences, a bold and vibrant piece that re-imagines the main theme in a rousing action setting full of bold horns and stirring strings, underpinned with punchy sequences for intricate percussion patterns. Later cues like the rousingly militaristic “Passing the Torch,” “Onto the Roof,” the kinetic “Get Me Within Range,” and the brooding “Chasing” are equally impressive; the specter of Indiana Jones is especially prominent in some of this writing, and the score is all the better for it.

In fact, as I mentioned, all throughout the score there are little textures and phrases and touches in the orchestration that reference the classic John Williams sound that Wallace described in his interview. Cues like “Backside of the Cell,” “I’ll Show You,” and “Why Can’t You Be Both” have a magical, glittery tone for harps and shimmering strings that sound like the score for E.T. by way of something like Always, or the more intimate moments of Jurassic Park; they express the sense of wonderment that Will feels regarding tornados and storm chasing.

The more angry and aggressive “In the Cage” also revisits the more dramatic part of E.T., but also at times brings back to the more dissonant moments of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, as part of a superb, brutal action sequence filled with chaotic brass clusters and string flourishes; listen especially for the wonderful, churning phrases in the low cellos and basses.

Some of the groaning, keening dissonances in pieces like “Biblical,” “Much To Do,” “Left Behind,” and “Scouting the Sky” also bring back memories of Jurassic Park – equating enormous dangerous dinosaurs with enormous dangerous tornadoes, perhaps? – and often feature a loud fluttering brass motif that, as the score unfolds, appears to establish itself as a recurring identity for the supercell storms themselves. Elsewhere, the phrasing of the strings in the aforementioned “Mother and Son” recalls several of Williams’s classic love themes, including Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. I also love the brief and (hopefully) intentional reference to the melody of ‘Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz at 1:44 in “Get Me Within Range,” reimagined as a brass fanfare! Auntie Em, Auntie Em, it’s a twister, it’s a twister!

Perhaps the only drawback to the score is the fact that it sort of peters out. The final few cues – “Heartbeats,” the tender “A Package Arrives,” “Uncle Roy” – are more low key, and rather than ending with a glorious final statement of the main theme, the whole thing slowly fades away, like a funnel cloud drifting away into the ether. It’s a slightly ignominious ending to what is otherwise a wholly engaging, absorbing, thoroughly enjoyable work.

I’ve gone to great lengths to emphasize just how much Corey Wallace’s score sounds like classic John Williams, but I also want to strongly emphasize that this score shouldn’t just be dismissed as an unoriginal soundalike with too much love for its temp track. Corey Wallace’s inspirations are clear, but there’s a great amount of compositional skill and intelligence, excellent technique, and outstanding orchestration on display here, and it’s to Wallace’s enormous credit that he is able to re-capture that magical, heroic, adventurous 1980s sound and blend it with his personal sensibilities. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, one of my favorite things about reviewing film music is when I discover scores like this: outstanding music for unheralded, under-the-radar films, written by hitherto unknown composers. Supercell is a great score, and on this evidence Corey Wallace has a huge future ahead of him.

Buy the Supercell soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • I Did It For You (Love Theme) (2:25)
  • William’s Escape (1:40)
  • Backside of the Cell (3:30)
  • In the Cage (3:22)
  • Biblical (3:02)
  • One-One-Thousand-Two-One-Thousand (1:42)
  • Mother and Son (2:59)
  • Much to Do (1:03)
  • The Kid Is Here (1:21)
  • Passing the Torch (1:55)
  • First Supercell (2:49)
  • Rule Number 3 (1:11)
  • Left Behind (1:30)
  • Through the Canyon (2:29)
  • Onto the Roof (1:13)
  • I’ll Show You (2:51)
  • Why Can’t You Be Both (1:43)
  • Ghost of a Giant (1:10)
  • Get Me Within Range (2:12)
  • They’d Be Here (1:35)
  • Scouting the Sky (1:30)
  • Chasing (4:08)
  • Heartbeats (2:36)
  • A Package Arrives (1:47)
  • Uncle Roy (3:25)

Running Time: 55 minutes 08 seconds

Filmtrax Records (2023)

Music composed by Corey Wallace. Conducted by Bálint Sapszon. Orchestrations by Jeff Tinsley and Jared Banta. Recorded and mixed by Dénes Rédly. Edited by XXXX. Album produced by Corey Wallace.

  1. Tibor
    May 13, 2023 at 12:22 pm

    It sounds like they gave some Williams material to some AI and that’s it.

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