November 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/monthly listings/November/





The Watcher
 VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6181 [59:58 - but see review]
  Amazon UK 

Marco Beltrami really delivers the goods on what could so easily have been just another serial killer on the loose generic thriller score.

The main theme, 'Driven' (the film originally went by this title) begins with the by now familiar accomplished Beltrami rhythmic synth work and then develops powerfully with a wonderful female vocal that builds and becomes incredibly intense and stirring. A marvellous opening that grows on you with every repeat play (and there will be many!).

The almost obligatory softer, gentle theme arrives in 'Big for the Shrink' and it's not at all bad, but this is a score that focuses mainly on driving, industrial styled suspense cues that really do get the pulse racing. 'Search Montage' features strong percussion, then out of the blue a brief but powerful bass version of the 'Driven' theme. 'The Package' has atmospherics with a dissonant edge before the vocals return to fine effect. 'Grif on the Go' employs brass stings and thumping bass backed up with insistent strings (reprised in '"The Watcher" End Titles') and it's almost as if Bernard Herrmann was with us again! Also worth mentioning is 'Dis Go Dis Way' showcasing lots of sterling drum work with a nicely realised brass and strings motif.

One thing's for sure, this dark score definitely won't lighten your spirits, although there are a few in-joke track titles which refer to the film's stars; 'Keanuvision' (Keanu Reeves), 'Queen of Spaders' (James Spader) and 'Hot Tomei-to' (Marisa Tomei).

Way above the usual standard for this kind of thing, you get a sense that the composer was firing on all cylinders here. What's especially rewarding is that there's so many small moments to savour and the inclusion of the vocal work gives the entire score extra substance and character. Terrific music such as this can only be a major plus for what is yet another in a long line of 'serial killer' movies and I'm very interested to hear how this works with the visuals, because it certainly packs a punch as a purely aural experience.

I must say what a pleasant surprise The Watcher turned out to be and I can wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone who enjoys inventive, exciting suspense scores. Beltrami moves up another notch.

Mark Hockley


Paul Tonks adds:-

In interviews, Beltrami has repeatedly stressed he neither believes he's been typecast as a horror score writer or intends to do so. The Scream trilogy, Mimic, Halloween: H20, The Faculty, Deep Water, and now The Watcher. In 4 years that's a pretty good record for someone avoiding typecasting! But I don't make this statistical analysis to call the guy a liar. What started with the first Scream in 1996 was a musical style Hollywood much appreciated. The movie kick-started a sub-genre (self-referential sardonic teen-appeal), and with song placement it produced a best-selling secondary soundtrack album. Beltrami had little to do with and was hardly represented by that disc, but his own score fused contemporary song-styled rhythms with wry orchestral writing. The kids were deemed to like that bit too. So that's been the style requested and apparent through the rest of the movies listed above.

With this new album, the style is at an all-time high. Opening with "Driven", the listener is buffeted by immediately intriguing layers of percussion covered by a funky rhythm. That gets augmented by a Scream-like wordless female vocal, which then builds into a rapid-fire cacophonous climax. Herein lies a template for the next hour. With no disrespect meant to the orchestral parts ("Hunting A Griffin" being a densely orchestrated action cue), for this reviewer it's become the synth elements bordering on electronica and the choral parts which best encapsulate the composer. The latter attains heavenly proportions in "Grif Gets A Girl", and whenever the chorus shines through you just know this is a writer who would do wonders with a romantic comedy. Then there's what truly warrants the label 'funk', which is here showcased by "Dis Go Dis Way". It's another terrific blend of allsorts, but with definite melody and one of many regularly suspected nods to Herrmann in the background.

The album ends with the gorgeous "Ghost Waltz"; a fine demonstration of being able to write far and away from the horror genre. Then it goes and does something highly telling. The piece is a mere 1:03, but the track appears as 15:43. Wait the extra quarter of an hour (or preferably press 'Skip'!), and you'll be rewarded with a brief brass 'wah-wah-wah-waaaaaaaaaah'. Typecast or not, this is someone with a sense of humour about their work.

Paul Tonks


Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index