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John Carpenter Halloween II / Halloween III: Season of the Witch Review

Soundtrack. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Essential listening for anyone fond of trouser-ruining horror scores.

Alex Deller 2012

Think of any good horror flick and chances are a large part its impact was down to whichever fiend scored the moments that so shattered your nerves. Psycho and its infamous shower scene? Bernard Herrmann. The Omen? Jerry Goldsmith.

It’s less grandiose in scope, perhaps, but among those trouser-ruining ranks has to be John Carpenter’s Halloween score, and that nerve-jangling piano motif.

While the first film has rightly gone down in horror history, its first two Carpenter-assisted sequels have been perhaps unfairly overshadowed. Their scores are comparatively unknown, but no less effective, and have been rescued from the vaults by upstart label Death Waltz Recording Company, who seem hell-bent on resurrecting all manner of creepy filmic delights.

As with the likes of Assault on Precinct 13 or Escape from New York, Carpenter’s music is intimately wedded to the cinematography itself. With the first sequel he and collaborator Alan Howarth explore and expand upon that initial piano theme, tinkering with new electronic gadgetry with clear relish.

Halloween II saw the main refrain move from the ol’ Joanna to a shiny new synthesiser, the listener’s nerves finely whittled away by a terrifying score that peaks with the unbearable tension of The Shape Stalks Again and the panic attack-inducing In the Operating Room.

Closing with the irrepressible perkiness of The Chordettes’ Mr. Sandman seems at odds with the preceding terror yet also strangely fitting; and it’s a credit to what went before that even this can sound malevolent after so much creeping dread.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch bade a temporary farewell to Michael Myers, adopting a sci-fi-influenced storyline and a suitably morphed take on the original film’s sonic sentiments. Sharing certain similarities with Brad Fiedel’s Terminator score, III deals in looming tones, jarring dissonance and nape-tingling electronic scrapes akin to the kiss of a whetstone on the blade of a very, very sharp knife.

Scored by Carpenter and Howarth in real time, everything on III, from the insistent prod of First Chase to the echoing eeriness of Hello Grandma, has its rightful place. It effectively rounds off a pair of different yet inextricably linked releases that should be essential listening for anyone fond of Zombi or Cliff Martinez’s Drive soundtrack.

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