The StrangersHorror scores are an interesting lot. They should provide an atmosphere of tenseness and a presence of looming danger, but without overdoing it and toppling over into melodrama or camp (unless that’s what the film calls for). Typically these scores are more fast paced than normal scores with numerous jolts and screeches intended to frighten and add to the shock factor of a lurking serial killer with a knife popping out from behind a closed door. The score for The Stranger is no different, though it relies more on the setting and maintaining of a subtly dark but obviously ominous mood, rather than on any gimmickry or quick shocks.

Making great use of haunting electronic music, tomandandy (a duo comprised of Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn – two musicians who met while attending Princeton University’s Graduate Music Department) have created an impressively patient score for director Bryan Bertino’s new horror film, The Strangers. The Strangers is one of those “based on a true story” horror movies that have been cropping up lately. It’s the story of a couple at their vacation home who get terrorized by strangers in masks. Imagine something like a mix between Funny Games, Vacancy, and The Devil’s Rejects and you’ve got a pretty fair idea of what you’re dealing with here.

With little expediency and even less force, tomandandy (with the help of The Bratislava Symphony Orchestra) have managed to lay out a score that is every bit as chilling and sneaky as the night stalkers that haunt the film itself. Slowly but surely playing out over the first third of the album, listeners can feel the tension in the airy movement of the music. The tone of the score gains force briefly in “3AM Knock,” almost exactly a third of the way through the score, laying groundwork for the imminent violence set to occur. Yet it’s not until “Alone,” the eighth track on the album, that the first truly fierce moment happens, and even that is surprisingly brief. Rather than attacking us head-on, it’s as if tomandandy are hitting us hard, and then circling around for another strike.

It’s immediately after this, in the next track (“James Returns”) to be exact, that the action starts to pick up. But even here, with an increase in the number of quick shadowy sounds, and a few more echoing electronics, the second third keeps pace with the slower first third. There are a few jumpy moments, followed by resounding drums, but compared to a typical horror film score, this one allows your mind to do the jumping rather than your eardrums. It’s not until “Angry”, near the start of the final third of the album, that things really start to feel oppressing. No longer are the bad guys hiding in the corners, it’s clear that at this point, they’re out for blood. An increase in tempo and a slight increase in volume add to these remaining tracks, and though there are still some slower moments, this heightened sense of awareness brings us through to the end of the film.

This is an impressive score and adds a tremendous chill-factor to the film. Apart from the film, and simply as a score, it’s still an absolute triumph of horror tonality.

Zach’s Rating: A
Perfect For: Playing outside your house on Halloween night
Stay Away if: You’re looking for something to raise your spirits
Buy this on Itunes: “Alone”

To purchase the soundtrack from The Strangers, visit Amazon

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