Composer: Benjamin Wallfisch
Label: WaterTower Music
Running time: 94 minutes
With the latest adaptation of Stephen King’s IT receiving critical and financial success on the big screen, cinematic horror is well and truly big business once again. Of course, along with strong direction, script and performances any great movie needs a good soundtrack and Benjamin Wallfisch’s score for IT is something special indeed. Fresh from composing Annabelle: Creation, Wallfisch has attempted to craft a soundtrack that perfectly captures the terrors of Stephen King’s story lurking in the heart of Derry.
So where to begin? Well the soundtrack itself is quite long, 37 tracks in total, though there are some similarities across them as you might expect. It’s not a soundtrack that you can just put on, sit back and listen to. This is a tense, creepy and often jarring cacophony of frenzied string movements, synthesised screeching sounds, with an insidious use of the English nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’. When you’ve heard it screeched through a terrifying, bombastic orchestral piece that puts you completely on edge, you’ll never think of it the same way again.
The soundtrack begins with ‘Every 27 Years’, a wonderfully insidious, atmospheric and playful piece. It captures the essence of the whole album straight away, childlike nature in style with a darker undertone that quickly gets under your skin. This continues with ‘Paper Boat’, which has that innocent quality, piano and strings capturing the spirit on the small child playing in the rain before something darker comes for him. And when the mood changes, it has the same fairy tale feel, fantastical with a darker edge.
We’ve all seen the mini series and watched the trailer for the movie and the third track ‘Georgie Meets Pennywise’ is as creepy as you would expect. It starts like a music box growing more sinister as ‘Oranges and Lemons’ kicks in. You can almost hear what is going to happen and it is enough to put a shiver down your spine as the piece degrades into something more frenzied and horrific. It’s a pure horror movie piece, the rehash of a screamed ‘Oranges and Lemons’ making for a terrifying end. It’s possibly the standout track of the whole album.
Wallfisch’s score doesn’t let up either. Things change a pace with the sweeping ‘Derry’, a piece feels melancholy and wondrous at the same time, but ‘River Chase’ is back to sinister, the use of a steady beat and atmospheric tones leading to a frantic fast pace full of danger. ‘Egg Boy’ rehashes ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and is frankly unnerving, overlapping child voices and sounds and frenzied strings, replaced by the music box version and a spine tingling string set and another frenzied climax. Honestly, if you’re not unnerved by this point, you’re probably dead inside.
And it continues relentless, with more twisted tracks like ‘Come Join The Clown’, ‘Hockstetter Attack’, ‘Haircut’, ‘Saving Mike’ and ‘Shapeshifter’, which is another nightmarish, intense piece, with a perversion of ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and an eerie string movement that puts the listener (and audience) on edge, particularly when the screaming kids’ voice kicks in.
But it’s not so intense that Wallfisch, like I presume the movie, doesn’t allow some moments to breathe. Things take a breather for the sweet, melancholy ‘Beverly’ with its dreamlike, innocent approach, while ‘Georgie’s Theme’ is a rather melancholy piece, filled with a lot of sadness. ‘Derry History’, ‘January Embers’ and ‘This Is Not A Dream’ meanwhile, are sweet and atmospheric but do feel largely forgettable at times against the more dramatic tracks.
But the best tracks that don’t employ the more jarring, horrific themes are those that emerge in the second half of the album. ‘He Didn’t Stutter Once’ feels a more uplifting and heroic, with rising themes that could almost exist in a superhero movie before taking a slightly sinister turn at the end. ‘Return to Neibolt’ and ‘Into The Well’ are tense, sweeping pieces, with some another rising score that almost feels like a soundtrack to a Batman movie. ‘Pennywises Tower’ starts off forbidding, with gothic voices, the track building into an almost fairytale-like grandeur and ending with the hint of the more sinister tones of the earlier tracks. Along with ‘Return to Neibolt’ and ‘Into The Well’, these three tracks stand out as something a little different from the rest.
There’s also a hint of Mark Snow’s The X Files influencing a couple of tracks too. ‘Neibolt Street’ is a particularly creepy, slow piece before a piercing scream and sinister beats take the listener back to the early jarring tracks. It’s an unnerving piece to listen to, run down merry go round music and screeching music and a frenzied chase sequence that evokes the uncomfortable moments of that iconic show. There is a similar motif in ‘Searching For Stanley’ too.
Other tracks like ‘Time To Float’ ramp up the tension with more twisted ‘Oranges and Lemons’ singing and growling, distorted sounds and a heavy beat; this piece is relentless and twisted and deeply unsettling to listen to. ‘What It Wants’ slows the pace a little with some gorgeously, atmospheric music, while ‘You’ll Die If You Try’ builds the intensity again, putting you completely on edge, before launching into a cacophony of frenzied string movements and distorted sounds that makes your skin crawl and ends on another harsh, distorted scream.
Things then build to what I assume is the climax of the movie. ‘Deadlights’ returns to the synthesised sounds of earlier tracks with the wailing making for something very unsettling and building to pure terror. ‘Saving Beverly’ is a little less intense, the choral motif adding a gothic undertone, invoking another fairytale, Tim-Burton esque with a sense of hope too at the end. While ‘Georgie Found’ is an eerie but more forgettable piece, ‘Transformation’ is just pure frenzied horror on acid, full of nightmarish sounds, growls, strings and beats. This continues in the twisted, pounding ‘Feed On Your Fear’ which is dramatic, nightmarish and tense, with a big sweeping score that descends into something sinister and atmospheric. The climax that is ‘Welcome To The Losers Club’ has a bombastic, fairytale feel and gothic choral notes that is relentless before slowing into another melancholy, gothic moment and a final scream that puts you in edge.
The final tracks are slower, remorseful and hopeful in equal measure. ‘Yellow Raincoat’ and ‘Blood Oath’ have beautiful orchestral pieces that are full of emotion while ‘Kiss’ is a sweet little track, another fairytale-like sequence with a simple piano piece. ‘Every 27 Years_reprise’ delivers an understated playback to the insidious, atmospheric and playful opening track, while the ‘Epilogue – The Pennywise Dance’ is an insidious icing on the cake, a deranged merry go round theme that slows down that will likely leave the listener with a shiver down their spine.
Benjamin Wallfisch’s score for IT is a wonderful horror soundtrack but not one that is easy to listen to. Out of context of the movie, it is evocative, jarring and damn right creepy and one that I imagine compliments the movie well. There are some beautiful orchestral pieces and gothic undertones but where it excels is in its ability to unnerve. The use of ‘Oranges and Lemons’ is chilling and the synthesized screeches, wails, screams and pounding beats are sure to stick with you long after. It’s probably a soundtrack you want to listen to in two or three parts; given its sizeable length, a single listen will probably leave you a nervous wreck by the end just like a good horror movie should. Though why should the soundtrack be no different?
IT: The Original Score is now available.