The Cell was one of the darkest, most shocking films of recent years. Had it been more
successful it would probably have been controversial. The plot combines the idea of a
person entering the mind of another - as in Dreamscape (1985) - with a race-against-time
to save the latest victim of a serial killer, as popularised in The Silence of the Lambs
(1990). So it is something of typecasting to find the composer is Howard Shore, he not
only of The Silence of the Lambs, but of the 90's other great serial killer success, Se7en (1995).
Shore's score is so tremendously effective in evoking dark moods, from unease to outright terror,
that it serves its purpose to perfection. However, I wonder who would want to listen to the
resulting CD for pleasure. This is intense work, as impenetrable of much of the most extreme
of 20th century concert hall writing, so uncompromisingly dark, bleak and chilling it makes
many other modern horror scores seem comparatively cheerful.
There are 20 tracks, and nothing much in the way of tunes. The first track, 'The Cell', opens
with a delicate, beautiful ney flute melody. But this is deceptive, soon lost amid a cataclysmic
assault of drumming by the Master Musicians of Jajouka. Their musical ferocity, combined with a
razor sharp London Philharmonic and superb recording quality results in one hellish landscape
of sound after another; unbridled 'horror' music interspersed with shifting, unfocused suspense
scoring which never allows a moment of relaxation, and short passages of stark, haunted writing
for the ney flute. Many of the cues run together to form what is essentially a symphony of dread;
if anyone were ever to faithfully film the work of H.P. Lovecraft, Mr Shore would be the perfect
composer for the score.
The last track is billed as a bonus cue: You Can Find the Feeling (Radio Edit) and is essentially
a light 'dance' remix of some of the material from the score. As a film score The Cell is highly
effective, as an album it is as inventively dislocating as anything since Mark Snow's
The X Files - Fight the Future. Personally, I didn't enjoy listening to it one bit, but this is
precisely because it achieves so successfully exactly what it sets out to do. I suspect most
film music aficionados will probably find Howard Shore's more or less simultaneously released
The Yards much more enjoyable.
Gary S. Dalkin
- but please add or deduct stars depending on your liking for musical terror