The mistake most often made by the average horror movie fan is to overlook one of the most integral parts of the horror/slasher/thriller genre: the soundtrack. Characteristically known for their visuals—the scenes of blood and gore, the terrifying and unreal—these types of movies often have some of the most emotionally engaging musical scores of any film genre.
The latest collection of compositions by Iranian-German composer Ramin Djawadi, whose name may sound familiar to those of you who purchased the Iron Man soundtrack, hit stores this past Tuesday: the soundtrack for the Gary Oldman and Odette Yustman horror thriller The Unborn.
Like the soundtrack to any PG-13 thriller pushing for box office glory, Djawadi’s music must help the images flashing across the screen to have an impact on the viewer. Slower tempo music that uses soft, repetitive chords relaxes the audience. Sudden, loud changes in tempo and pitch are often used to accompany scenes of blood and gore given the fact that such changes cause viewers’ heart beats to increase and adrenaline to pump, giving them a more intense movie viewing experience.
Some cynics might dismiss any characteristic of a movie designed solely to create profit at the box office (such as The Unborn?) as subpar or even worthless, however a quick listen to Ramin’s scores confirms that his music achieves the desired extradiegetic atmosphere of a movie like The Unborn without cheapening the quality of his compositions.
The majority of the music included on the soundtrack for The Unborn follows a particular through-composed pattern in which the first 15 seconds to about 2 minutes of each song are composed of very smooth, soft and rhythmic tones designed to create a feeling of comfort and relaxation for the listener that can be broken suddenly by a crescendo of sound, tempo and pitch changes that accompany “creepy” or violent images that appear on the screen.
In an ocean of horror/thriller movie soundtracks, the score for The Unborn is made unique by the way each and every element comes together to serve the purpose of the film with which it is associated. Even the song titles lend themselves to this purpose. The tenth song on the soundtrack, for example, is titled “Dybuk”. In Jewish folklore, “Dybuk”, or “Dybbuk”, is used to describe the soul of a dead sinner that has entered the body of another—an extremely fitting song title given the premise of The Unborn, a movie about a young woman whose deceased twin brother is attempting to use her as a portal to enter this world from beyond the grave.
The combination of sight and sound is a powerful one, and one that composer Ramin Djawadi has an excellent grasp of. As the soundtrack for The Unborn demonstrates, the power of Djawadi’s compositions is tangible; his melodies flow through the mind, evoking vivid images and feelings that will inspire listeners to return to inspect these compositions again and again.
Ramin Djawadi’s work appears on a number of movie and television soundtracks, including the mystery thriller Mr. Brooks, 2008 crime drama Deception, science fiction thriller Blade: Trinity, and the television series Prison Break. Djawadi also worked as the assistant composer on the popular films Iron Man, Batman Begins and Pirates of the Caribbean.