It Comes At Night: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Brian McOmber (music review)

‘It Comes At Night’ is a low budget US horror film which was given a limited run in American cinemas in June 2017. It is the second feature film to come from writer/director Trey Edward Shults, following a well-received 2015 debut, ‘Krisha’. The new film is set in a post-apocalyptic near-future in which a contagious disease is spreading like wildlife across the globe. The plot revolves around the attempt by an ordinary family of three, comprising husband Paul, his wife, Sarah, and their teenage son, Travis, to survive. Having locked themselves away in what they think is a secure country home, the arrival of a second family, also in search of safety, turns their world upside down. Should they help the newcomers or prioritise their own survival?

This review is not of the film, however, as it has not been released in the UK and I have not therefore seen it. I have, though, listened to the soundtrack album and that’s what I will review here. The score was composed by Brian McOmber, formerly the drummer with US indie band Dirty Projectors. The album includes twenty tracks with a total run-time of just under 42 minutes.

The score starts with the title track, which sets the mood for the entire CD, with slowly changing synth chords fading away into individual notes. This is followed by several tracks where eerie sound effects fade in and out, alternating with drumbeats, glissando strings and thrumming bass. Track 5, ‘The Road’, introduces a complex drumming rhythm and we then build to the longest piece on the album, ‘The Triumph Of Death’ (track 7, 5’42”). This includes simple melodies for the first time. These slowly transform into an Arabic-sounding melody which fades out to silence, before a sudden loud chord intrudes, followed by urgent rhythmic pounding, suddenly cut off.

The next few tracks are all short, alternating drumming, reverb-heavy sound effects and more slowly changing synth chords. The last two tracks reprise material from track 1 and track 7, before some kind of uneasy resolution is achieved in track 20, ‘Sarah’s Understanding’, which slowly fades away to nothingness.

This is a score whose primary areas of focus are atmosphere and mood. The tempo of the music is mostly slow, with huge synthesiser chords whose harmonies transform gently over several seconds. There is very little melodic material other than in a handful of tracks. Even here, the melodies are extremely simple. Some of the most synth-heavy pieces bring to mind Vangelis’ iconic 1982 score to ‘Blade Runner’, while the more industrial-sounding effects-laden tracks recall the output of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop for TV shows like ‘Doctor Who’ during the 1970s, full of ring modulation, feedback and echoing synths.

If the intention of the score is to signal the unsettling nature of the film’s claustrophobic and dystopian setting, it succeeds superbly. My one criticism of the soundtrack would be the lack of variation in tempo. With only a few exceptions, the beat of the music rarely gets above walking pace. Having read a synopsis of the film’s plot on-line, it is clear that this is a psychological horror film where only a limited amount of the action appears ‘on stage’. Given this, the slow tempos fit the general mood of suspense. Even so, the plot does appear to contain a few action scenes at crucial plot points and I would have liked the soundtrack to better reflect this.

The score for ‘It Comes at Night’ is moody, atmospheric and unsettling. Given the subject matter of the film it has been written for, composer Brian McOmber has done a very good job of matching music to visuals. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay him is to say that I’ve listened to the CD more than a dozen times while preparing to write this review and I’ll be eager to put it on again even after the review is done and dusted.

Patrick Mahon

June 2017

(pub: Milan Music. 1 CD 20 tracks, 42 minutes. Price: £13.99 (UK). EAN CD 3299039992623)

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