I made the mistake of playing the While She Was Out original soundtrack as some background music when I gave the album my first listen. What begins as creepy, yet subtle slowly rolls and builds into a score that at times was so terrifying, I couldn’t keep working while it was playing. Haslinger is a pro when it comes to both ambient music and film scoring; thus, its no surprise to hear such a complex range of sounds and music applied to this eccentric thriller.
The opening track, “First Day of Christmas,” is thankfully brief as it is genuinely haunting. The bastardized carol is stripped down, out of tune, and beautifully weird. It’s the kind of song that gives you chills; before you understand why, you realize you’re getting scared. It’s this ability to interject emotion into music that separates the men from the boys in the world of music composition, and Haslinger is the man, weaving an aural narrative that forces you to react from the gut.
Tracks two through four are ambient pieces, with some voluminous peaks that really bring the listener into the emotional states of trepidation, even fear — though the valleys in between are subtle, more delicate, and pretty. The overall feeling is more ominous than outright scary, and you think to yourself: it’s probably all good. Until track five.
Its been years since I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a song the way I did to “The Car Chase.” As soon as it came on, without having to verify the title, I knew this was the music playing as Kim Basinger is pursued out of the mall parking lot by a group of angry, murderous thugs. My blood pressure steadily climbed along with the pitch, volume, and tempo. This is the Jaws Theme of the score: the notes speed up, get higher, your palms sweat, and you hope whoever is fleeing somehow makes it to safety.
Plot-wise, Della is hunting and being hunted. Score-wise, the varied feelings of both tracking and running are explored: the thrill of adrenaline mixed with the quiet anxiety of hiding. “Huey is Dead” and “Looking at Pictures” help ease some the tension, as two beautiful ambient pieces that masterfully mix a sort of hollow strangeness with occasional full sounds. The pieces ebb and flow quietly, the sense of imminent danger put on hold, but not forgotten. “Primal Instincts” fleshes out a bit, adds more rhythm than the looser tracks, and gives way to a brilliant musical climax.
The latter tracks are prettier, more musical, and less scary. Haunting, still, I love these tracks the most, specifically “Breakdown” and “Final Resolution.” This is listenable music that’s lovely as it cries to the listener. Kim Basinger’s own “I’ll be Home For Christmas” serves its purpose: not to be a vocal showcase, but to be simple and almost stoic.
The only track I dislike is number six, “Day of the Lords” by Joy Division. This vintage rock song sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of the music, but serves a purpose within its context in the film. I think I’m biased here, as I’m not the biggest Joy Division fan in the first place, so I leave it at that.
Overall, the While She Was Out original soundtrack is as beautiful as it is dark and strange, able to really paint the emotional tone of the film deftly with precision and subtly in perfect ratios.