Exploring a New World in VR: Talking with Composer Jakob Eisenbach about Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon

Earlier this fall I had the chance to speak to composer Jakob Eisenbach about his work on the VR arcade experience Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon. In this exploration game, you and your team are teleported to an ancient Mayan temple where you must work to stop the awakening of evil during a ‘blood moon.’

I’ve been fascinated by VR for a long time, so it was really cool to get to talk with Jakob Eisenbach about his work on Tikal and I hope you enjoy our conversation about the game (and working in VR).

How did you get started as a composer?

It’s quite a funny story: I wished for a guitar on my 15th birthday because of falling in love with the sound of electric guitars, thanks to the game Guitar Hero 3.
Since I was somehow pretty quick at learning technique, practiced up to 12hours a day and advanced unusually fast, I got interested in more and more complex and high energy music. Then I joined a metal band, played lots of Dream Theater, Jason Becker and other very technical music, but became bored with only “complex and fast” eventually.

Since this really was the first time me being good at something, I decided to take my luck into my own hands and start a career in music. But to not be too crazy and only relying on guitar, I wanted to learn everything there is to learn about music.

And as crazy as it sounds, after starting to take piano and theory lessons for 4 years, I already managed to get accepted as one of four students at the Zurich University of Arts. Something which turned out to be my most lucky punch ever –
the year I joined the program “Composition for Film, Theater and Media”, was also the first year where all of the Universities Departments moved into a newly constructed building.

And there I was….studying my dream occupation while being surrounded by so many talented people, state of the art recording studios, concert halls, classical/jazz music students, while having yet the craziest advantage to come: Collaborative in-house programs with students from game design, film, theater, dance, conducting, recording, you name it.
Somehow our field of studies turned out to be at the intersection between a lot of those disciplines, so any project we did could be recorded live with real instruments since the very beginning – simply because the musicians were next door and we simply had free access to the infrastructure.
We literally recorded full-size orchestras for fun little school projects, because the most difficult thing was to only find enough musicians. The rest was already there and free.

Fast forward a few busy years, students graduate, some find jobs at different production companies or game studios and then you eventually get a call: “Hey Jakob, since you worked on my MA graduation game, my company and I have this new project….”
And suddenly I find myself inside this incredible VR startup “True VR Systems”.

How is composing for VR different from composing for, say, a regular video game or a film?

Basically, as with any kind of storytelling, you’re aiming to re-create human experiences. And there’s only limited ways of doing that. Film for example, is something that you’d call a “linear” story: You as the consumer can only go forward in time. The most interactive a movie gets, is you pausing it or adjusting the volume.

Then there’s games: some of them also have a linear tendency, like Journey.

Most games however tend to have more “non-linear” gameplay: open world games like Red Dead Redemption or World Of Warcraft, where you can spent as much time as you want, where you want, and even do things repeatedly.

Depending on how the story is told, the music has to connect to either the environment/mood or a linear sequence, like in cutscenes or timelines.

Actually, since the definition of music is anchored at the “perception of organized sound” it’s the job of me as the composer to create those organized chunks that a consumer may eventually perceive as music. They can consist of many different possible sections with lots of outcomes, transitions and different versions of the same story and mood.
Or you can create one singular timeline, that you have to experience in one in one sitting.

In the projects of TrueVR it’s the same: the only extension is that you could place the music in virtual spaces and environments. But no matter how much technical extension you add to a story, it still has to make sense in the consumer’s head.
Those VR projects are mostly non-linear but have a few linear timelines where the music has some straight moments (for example on the Lava River).

Fun thing to think about: The reality we experience every day can also be observed as some kind of linear story with moments and chunks of non-linear, repeatable timelines.


What inspired the sound of Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon?

The main inspiration lies in the idea that you are experiencing a “strange” world, but you are some kind of main character/hero that’s solving the ancient riddles and mysteries of this temple.

As the game itself aimed for the “wow effect” experience of huge dimensions, especially in the vertical, we decided this is achieved best with a real symphony orchestra.
The 24-piece choir really added the feeling of an ancient magic being at work.

To achieve the “strangeness” I was strongly inspired by Balinese Gamelan culture, since this has a strange character to most western ears, and I was familiar with their theory. Extended with Arabic and Asian instruments it became less specifically on one culture though, while retaining the character of something “different” and “tribal” next to the orchestra. Nobody really knows how Mayan music sounded after all. We only know of some self-made instruments like bamboo flutes and drums.


Why was it so important for the music for Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon to be recorded live? 

Two reasons. The first: This game should evoke the feeling of being impressed and stunned by perceiving the virtual world, but not the kind of “gimmicky impressive” you have in most trailer music.
The second reason: Since we established a kind of “real instrumentalists only” trend, coming from the amazing experience in my studies, I simply had the experience how to pull this off. Since we did small school projects with real orchestras and ensembles all the time already, I very strongly felt that this project, which became internationally available and feels like something exceptional in its way, especially deserved to have a real soul.

How did working on Tikal compare to the other VR projects you’d composed for? It sounds like this one was bigger than the ones that came before.

Tikal was planned by the studio as their flag ship project in their “explorer genre” from the very beginning. They wanted to have one very high-quality game, and Tikal was going to be that one. The other projects that have music of mine (like Patient Zero) are more focused on the interactivity and shooting zombies had a different approach from the studio. And they felt that for PvP and PvE shooters there’s other necessities than having a huge score. 

How much time did you have to score Tikal?

Not much time, then suddenly a lot of time, and then suddenly not much time again.

So, while designing the core gameplay with the visual artists and creative team, we really went hand in hand. I scored a 10-minute suite within a few days, then we split this into different sections that could work to what we transcribed in the storyboard.
During the level design, we tested a lot in the actual VR environment, like how you perceive the time for different locations etc.
But because the new licensed partners in Canada wanted to open their franchise with a new game, we had to go into beta very early. So from first draft until beta, I had around
3-4 weeks.

Then this got stuck, because the dev team and me (hired as sound designer) had to go to different projects, so the composer side of me was left in the dark for quite a while.

But then, more than a good year later we got back to this refurbished the game for the new 4K hardware and the arenas in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Which was when we felt this was the time to finally record the music – but then there was COVID.

So, lots of stop and go, then during the “European summer break of covid” we sneaked into a little timeslot where travelling and recording full orchestras in one room was allowed and finally managed to pull this off in Budapest.

Let’s just say the composing part of this project was the least difficult part by far, ha ha.


Do you have a favorite part of the soundtrack?

Yes! My favorite part is “An Ancient Awakening”.

And you really need to play the game in the arena to understand why.

I’ll try to transcribe it though: When this cue starts, you’re already in the game for a little while and managed to advance to an ancient grave chamber.

You solved the riddle in this level and then the wind machines of the VR arena start, the scent dispensers are activated and in the game, you see a lot of beautiful particles flying around in the environment that slowly materialize into an ancient Mayan ghost in front of you. This ghost is the first NPC character you meet in the experience and since you’re inside the VR environment, he really is about as tall as you and your teammates.

I also carefully sound designed his voice and sound effects. He carries I think 5-7 individual binaural SFX sources in his prefab, which blend in with the music.

When I tested the game, I always liked to stand pretty close to his animation.

Little fun fact: The ghosts’ animation is a motion capture of the lead developer Mischa Geiser himself. They recorded this full sequence while repeatedly playing my music mockup on speakers in the VR arena and performing the movements to the music.

I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Jakob Eisenbach about Tikal: Night of the Blood Moon.

See also:

Composer Interviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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Soundtrack News: Lamb’ Soundtrack Available Now from Milan Records

Milan Records has released LAMB (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK) an album of music composed by Icelandic composer and guitarist TÓTI GUÐNASON for A24’s newest folk thriller. Available everywhere now, the album features score music written by Guðnason for the terrifying debut feature from writer-director Valdimar Jóhannsson set in the Icelandic wilds.

Having worked alongside his sister Hildur Guðnadóttir on her Oscar®-winning original score for Joker and with Ólafur Arnalds on his BAFTA-winning soundtrack to Broadchurch, Tóti Guðnason makes his debut as lead composer with Lamb. A dark and unnatural folktale for the ages, Lamb is available in theaters now from A24.

Lamb was initially intended to be completely without a score, and I feel that is a humbling starting point for a composer,” says Tóti Guðnason of his work on the film. “Growing up in the north of Iceland I’m very familiar with the feeling of rural silence. That feeling is extraordinarily well portrayed by Valdimar Jóhannsson in Lamb and I did my best to play into it while respecting it. My responsibility was to create something more fitting than silence, and silence can be the greatest of sounds.” 

LAMB (ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK)

TRACKLISTING –

  1. Prelude
  2. The Lambing
  3. Searching for Ada
  4. Return Home 
  5. Mothers
  6. Reflection
  7. Hrútur
  8. Uncle Pétur
  9. Herding
  10. Ada
  11. Hrútmenni
  12. DÝRIÐ

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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My Thoughts on: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

After making my way through the misfit Halloween III: Season of the Witch, I was more than ready to get back to the story of Michael Myers with the aptly named Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and I was not disappointed. Released six years after Halloween III, Halloween 4 moves the focus to Jamie (Danielle Harris), the young daughter of Laurie Strode (and by extension Michael’s niece) who is struggling to live with her foster family, as she suffers from constant nightmares of Michael, though she doesn’t realize it’s him as yet.

Michael conveniently escapes the day before Halloween and makes his way back to Haddonfield once he learns that he has a niece. Pursuing him along the way is Dr. Loomis, now badly scarred after suffering burns due to the conclusion of Halloween II (a nice continuity touch). There’s a noticeable difference to Loomis in this film, compared to his appearances in Halloween and Halloween II. While he was always obsessed with Michael to a certain degree, starting with this film Loomis becomes noticeably vengeful too. This is no longer a case of a doctor wanting to save the world from his incurably evil patient, now Loomis is distinctly obsessed with killing Michael to remove his evil from the world. That, combined with the scars, makes Loomis a little frightening in his own right.

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the focus of Halloween moving to Jamie, a young girl. But Danielle Harris’ performance in this film is quite good, not least because she reacts to Michael exactly the way you’d expect a little kid too: with fear, terror and a lot of screaming. Speaking of, those screams practically broke my heart. It also left me completely unprepared for how the film would end (more on that in a little while).

I’ve read multiple times that people don’t like Michael’s mask in Halloween 4, but I confess I don’t see the problem with it. It’s clearly established that this is a different mask from the one he had before (he stole it from that store Jamie was in), so naturally it’s going to have a different look. It was certainly scary enough for me, I had no problem believing that was Michael Myers.

Then there’s the ending of the film and THAT final scene with Jamie. Considering it’s been over a year since I saw the original Halloween, I’d forgotten the significance of Jamie wearing a clown costume for trick or treating as young Michael wore something similar when he killed his older sister. If you make the connection back to the original film, it provides a frightening bit of foreshadowing for the horror that will come in the film’s closing moments. I particularly liked how Halloween 4 pays homage to the first film’s opening scene by giving us a POV through mask holes. And that last image of Jamie….that will remain burned in my brain for years to come, and I KNEW the scene existed! Being easily frightened, I review a summary of each Halloween film before I watch it so I’m not overwhelmed by the kills or jump scares, so I knew exactly how Halloween 4 ends. But even though I knew, it didn’t stop the ending from giving me an emotional gut punch that left me sitting stunned through the credits. That is the sign of a good film, when you know how it ends but it still gets to you anyway.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) Directed by Dwight H. Little Shown: George P. Wilbur

The original Halloween is still the best in the series, but dare I say it, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is not far behind. This is definitely one of my favorite films in the series and it left me eager to move on to Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (though in hindsight I shouldn’t have been that eager).

Let me know what you think about Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Halloween (1978)

My Thoughts on: Halloween II (1981)

My Thoughts on: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

My Thoughts on: Halloween (2018)

My Thoughts on: Halloween Kills (2021)

Film Reviews

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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My Thoughts on: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

I’ll admit to being more than a little leery about watching Halloween III: Season of the Witch. This film’s reputation precedes it, and I’ve known for years that this is considered the “weird one” of the franchise, not least because it’s the only Halloween film to not feature Michael Myers. This is because John Carpenter had it in mind to turn Halloween in to an anthology series, with each film covering something different, but still connected to Halloween. Well that backfired because by then Michael Myers had become such a popular villain that audiences rejected a Halloween film without him in it, though it has since gained a cult following.

With that in mind, I was fully prepared to be disappointed by Halloween III: Season of the Witch, but it turns out it’s not all that bad.

Halloween III, unlike the previous entries, takes place in California. The whole story revolves around a mysterious toy company, the Silver Shamrock company, a set of popular Halloween masks they’re selling, and a vast conspiracy revolving around a “big giveaway” the company is promoting for Halloween night. Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) gets mixed up in everything when one of his patients is mysteriously killed and soon finds himself in over his head as Halloween night ticks ever closer.

It is so hard to think of this movie as a Halloween movie because Michael isn’t present. The iconic Halloween theme isn’t there either, which makes it really hard to think of this film as belonging to the franchise. The story itself is also really strange: it doesn’t quite know if it’s fantasy horror or sci-fi horror and it really tries to be both, which doesn’t work at all. That being said, Conal Cochran makes for a satisfying villain, one with truly nefarious intentions once the story begins to unfold.

Cochran’s plot may be weird, with multiple references to the supernatural, but once it’s demonstrated exactly what Cochran wants to DO, that’s when the true horror kicked in for me. Yeah, I’m talking about THAT scene with Buddy and his family. I wasn’t truly horrified until that moment happened, and I already knew the scene existed (I never go into a Halloween film blind, I’m too chicken). What really gets me is that this is children Cochran wants to do this too, and in a sense that makes him somewhat worse than Michael. Because sure, Michael goes after teenagers, but Cochran is targeting young children, something Michael (to that point) hadn’t really done in the previous two films (I know this changes in Halloween 4 and 5 but at this point those movies hadn’t happened yet).

I will say that the ending of Halloween III bothers me. Not that the ending is left ambiguous, I get why that was done. I just don’t buy the TV stations removing the commercial from the air simply because Dr. Challis begged them to. There’s no reason for the stations to listen to Challis, who by this point is raving to the point of insanity (with good reason given everything that’s happened). Also, I find it a little hard to believe that he wouldn’t call home and at least get his own children to take their Silver Shamrock masks off before time ran out.

One other plot point I don’t understand is what happens to Ellie. Maybe I’m missing the point but what purpose does her horrible fate serve? Oh sure, it’s a terrifying reveal, but why do it at all? Unless…well I do have a theory about that. Cochran did admit earlier in the story that he “loves a good joke.” And wouldn’t it be the biggest joke of all for Challis to think he’d managed to “save/get the girl” only to find out it was all for naught? That’s the only possible explanation I can think of, because otherwise the moment doesn’t really work for me (I also feel it went on several beats too long).

I’m glad I made it through Halloween III, but I will admit to being more than ready to getting back to the story of Michael Myers starting with Halloween 4.

Let me know what you think about Halloween III: Season of the Witch in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Halloween (1978)

My Thoughts on: Halloween II (1981)

My Thoughts on: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

My Thoughts on: Halloween (2018)

My Thoughts on: Halloween Kills (2021)

Film Reviews

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Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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My Thoughts on: Halloween II (1981)

After gingerly making my way through Halloween (2018) and Halloween Kills (2021), I decided I might as well go for it and make my way through the rest of the Halloween movies. And as I’ve already seen the original Halloween (albeit last year), that meant my starting point would be Halloween II, the no-longer-canon sequel to the original Halloween film. Halloween II picks up immediately where the original film left off, and finds a traumatized Laurie Strode still pursued by Michael Myers, with the action now moved to Haddonfield’s local hospital.

Given how terrified I was by the first Halloween film, I was a little nervous going in to Halloween II. But I shouldn’t have worried, as there is a noticeable drop in terror between the first Halloween film and Halloween II. Which isn’t to say that Halloween II isn’t scary, it definitely is, but it’s not as scary as the first film, which so far bears out what others have told me about this franchise, namely that the first film is the best and it all went downhill from there.

Although as I said, Halloween II does have it’s fair share of scary moments, it just takes a while….a LONG while….for things to get interesting. Everything that happens before Michael shows up at the hospital is, well, to be honest it’s a little dull. In fact, up until a certain point, I was fully prepared to state that I was completely bored by this movie. But then Michael showed up at the hospital and things got interesting in a hurry.

The kills and scares once Michael gets to the hospital are more than a little gruesome, especially THAT scene with the therapeutic hot tub. The one big disappointment I have with the kills though is that we don’t see how the one head nurse meets her demise. Oh sure, we see the bloody aftermath, and it looks gruesome, but I want to see how she got into that position to begin with. Because of all the kills I’ve seen Michael do, that one doesn’t feel like something he would do. It’s too slow, if that makes sense. Michael, as far as I can tell, goes in for a relatively quick kill: stabbing, strangling, scalding to death. All excruciating ways to die, but it’s still relatively quick. Death by bleeding out (unless Michael tapped an artery) is going to take a while. Maybe that’s why the movie doesn’t show that part, because it wouldn’t fit with what we usually see Michael doing when he kills.

I do find it more than a little funny that Michael was able to move throughout the hospital for so long without anyone getting wise to him being there. But then again, this IS a horror movie, and it IS established to be the dead of night, so I won’t nitpick too hard on this point (but it IS funny if you think about it). Oddly enough, I think I liked Donald Pleasance’s performance in the first film better than in this one. Somehow, he just didn’t come across as good this time around.

I know it’s been long since retconned, but I do like the plot point of Laurie being revealed as Michael’s long-lost younger sister. Suddenly Michael’s ongoing obsession with killing Laurie in particular makes total sense. After all, this all started with Michael killing his older sister, it stands to reason he would want to kill his younger sister for the same twisted reasons. Even though it’s no longer canon, I like how the film drops that little bombshell into the mix, and I can only imagine that it got a big gasp out of the audience when it first hit theaters.

One other detail that interested me comes late in the film. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but knowing what I know about the plots about Halloween 4, 5, and 6…is it possible that Michael scrawling “Samhain” on the chalkboard is a tiny bit of foreshadowing for the weird Thorn plot that makes up the plot of 4-6? I don’t know if that’s even possible given the time gap between Halloween II and Halloween 4 but I feel like it could be interpreted that way.

While it’s nowhere near as good as the first film, I did enjoy Halloween II, and I can totally see how it was intended to be the definitive end for Michael’s story (though of course history had other ideas). Onward to Halloween III: Season of the Witch (aka “the weird one” in this franchise)!

Let me know what you think about Halloween II in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Halloween (1978)

My Thoughts on: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

My Thoughts on: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

My Thoughts on: Halloween (2018)

My Thoughts on: Halloween Kills (2021)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

My Thoughts on: The Last Duel (2021)

I was so excited by the idea of The Last Duel. It’s directed by Ridley Scott (he who gave us Gladiator and Alien just to name two), it was based on a true story, and its all-star cast included Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver. The 2 1/2 hour run time made me a little antsy, but I’ve sat through long movies before (Avengers: Endgame being the most recent example that I can think of), so I hoped it wouldn’t be an issue. The story, for those not familiar, is based on the true story of when Jean de Carrouges and Jacques Le Gris fought a duel to the death after Carrouges’ wife Marguerite accused Le Gris of raping her. It should be a completely compelling story.

Then I actually went to the movie theater and watched The Last Duel and I left disappointed.

It’s not all bad. At its heart, The Last Duel contains a very important message about rape and being held accountable for one’s actions, even if all the world says you shouldn’t say such things. I can’t fault the film in that regard. I should also say that Jodie Comer and Adam Driver both turn in magnificent performances and the titular duel itself is a thing of beauty to behold. If you make it all the way through the movie to the duel, you will not be dissatisfied.

No, my big issue is with how the film is put together. The story elements are good, they really are, but the way they’re put together…a big chunk of the film comes across like a disjointed mess. One scene will cut to another and it’ll take you a few minutes to realize that years have passed between these two scenes. It’s just not how I would’ve imagined a story like this being told. I thought it would be one big epic like Gladiator and that’s not what we get.

The large scale format of how The Last Duel is told is interesting, I’ll give it that. The story is essentially divided into three perspectives, with each retelling of the story emphasizing (or glossing over) certain story elements based on whose perspective is being shared. It’s the classic Rashomon effect, where we see the same story from multiple perspectives, except that instead of the true outcome being left completely up to the audience to decide, it is subtly hinted that one of the viewpoints is actually the true one.

I think part of my problem is that I misunderstood what this story would be about. The trailers led me to believe that the issue at question was whether or not the rape took place. It sounded like this was going to be strictly a case of “he said/she said” with the truth ultimately left unrevealed.Maybe I should’ve known better given what I read of the real life story before going to see the movie…but that’s what I get for misreading the trailer I suppose.

I can’t in good conscience recommend The Last Duel, but I am curious to see what all of you thought about the film. Let me know in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook

My Thoughts on: Halloween Kills (2021)

I have finally done two things I never thought I would do: I have finally gone to see a Halloween film in theaters and I did it at NIGHT. In all seriousness, I had to watch the original Halloween and 2018 Halloween in the daytime because of how freaked out I can get from watching horror movies. I knew I was taking a risk by seeing Halloween Kills at night, but in the end I think it paid off because…I not only survived, I liked it!

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed Halloween Kills and thought it told a good story, though I temper that statement by reminding you all that I have only seen three Halloween films to date: the original, the 2018 continuation, and this film, which is the sequel to the 2018 film. The early reviews hinted that this film was far more brutal than past iterations and they weren’t kidding. There are several moments in Halloween Kills that made my skin crawl, but I can’t say that I was surprised by the uptick in violence. Keep in mind, the 2018 film ends with Michael trapped and left to die in a burning house. You have to imagine he’d be beyond enraged once he escapes, with that increased violence being the major indicator, because otherwise Michael acts the same as always: quiet and aloof right until he goes in for the kill.

And boy does Michael kill in this one. I thought the 2018 film would’ve prepared me for what was to come in Halloween Kills, and while it somewhat helped, I found myself overwhelmed at times by the sheer amount of violence. I could be wrong, but I think Halloween Kills has the highest total body count for a film in this franchise (please correct me if that’s inaccurate). Despite all of the best laid plans (more on that in a moment), people just kept dying and by the end of the film I was more than a little unnerved by the fact that Michael just kept killing. And maybe that’s because, even though I know there’s Halloween Ends to come next year, I really thought that Haddonfield banding together to hunt down Michael would lead to something more conclusive happening. I should’ve known better given what I’ve learned about the Halloween films, but it seemed like a sure thing when the trailers hinted at the town forming a mob for the sole purpose of getting Michael. Surely that would lead to something good, right?

Well…..not exactly. In a moment I wasn’t expecting at all, Halloween Kills has a rather pointed take on the dangers of mob mentality and it leads to the saddest moment in the film in my opinion. The problem with a mob is that, once you get one started, it becomes almost impossible to control, especially if your target isn’t where you think it is. It would’ve been awesome if the mob had gotten to Michael as I thought they would, but I can understand why the film didn’t go that route, it kept things realistic.

If I have one big complaint about Halloween Kills, it’s that we don’t get enough of Laurie Strode. I loved Jamie Lee Curtis in 2018 Halloween, and while she does turn in an excellent performance in Halloween Kills as well, she’s hardly present, though to be fair she IS in the hospital due to the injuries she sustained fighting Michael in the previous film. Based on how the film ends, I think it’s safe to say that we’re going to see a LOT of Laurie in Halloween Ends, but that’s only a guess on my part. I am also now a big fan of Andi Matichak as Allyson, Laurie’s granddaughter. I liked her in the previous film, but she has this great scene with Michael late in the film that solidified her as a favorite for me.

There were a number of scenes I liked in this film, particularly the scenes that paid homage to moments from the original Halloween film. Those worked particularly well because they serve as great easter eggs for those who know the original film, but they also work on their own even if you’d never seen the old films before. I admit to being briefly irritated by the flashbacks to 1978, but looking back I understand the purpose they served in setting up several plot points in the film.

Speaking of those flashbacks, there’s something I noticed in them that I wanted to discuss. As the story flashed back to 1978, I noticed that the film quality changed. The scene literally LOOKS like it was filmed back in the late 1970s. It was a great attention to detail that I really liked. I mean if you’re going to do a flashback, you might as well do it properly, right? There’s one other detail in the 1978 flashbacks that I liked very much but I won’t name what it is because I don’t want to spoil it. All I’ll say is this was a GENIUS way to further tie in Halloween Kills to the original movie and I can’t wait for the making of featurettes so I can find out how they did it.

All of that being said, while I did like Halloween Kills, I can’t help but wonder what the ending means for next year’s Halloween Ends. Because everyone got together to do the one thing that I thought would work to get rid of Michael….and it didn’t work (obviously it didn’t or there wouldn’t be a sequel next year). Which raises a terrifying question in my mind: what if this is a story that doesn’t have a happy ending? What if there truly is no way to get rid of Michael and we learn as much in Halloween Ends? I suppose we’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

I’m so proud of myself for making it through Halloween Kills in theaters and I’m really excited to see what happens next year with Halloween Ends.

Let me know what you think about Halloween Kills in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Halloween (1978)

My Thoughts on: Halloween II (1981)

My Thoughts on: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

My Thoughts on: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

My Thoughts on: Halloween (2018)

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My Thoughts on: Halloween (2018)

A full year after I talked myself into watching the original Halloween (1978) and barely surviving the encounter, I finally summoned up the nerve to watch the 2018 continuation. This film essentially retcons everything that happens after the original Halloween, and while I was initially bummed that this meant that Laurie actually isn’t Michael’s long lost sister, I found I otherwise wasn’t bothered, because good lord almighty this film scared the crap out of me.

I don’t care what anyone says, Halloween (2018) is just as terrifying as the original, maybe even more so. From the moment the film starts, there’s a building tension as you’re just waiting for the moment Michael inevitably gets loose to wreak havoc once again. I really like how, for the bulk of the film, you really can’t see Michael’s real face, even though it takes some time for him to get the mask back on. However, if you know when to look, you can get brief glimpses hear and there, and then as now (because remember he’s briefly unmasked in the original film) it’s unnerving how normal he looks, aside from being blinded in one eye by Laurie of course. But once that mask comes back on…*shudders* I know there are 40 years between this film and the first one, but I swear I can’t tell the difference once the mask is on and that infernal music starts up.

I think the most terrifying moment for me in that entire film is that really long take when Michael starts his killing spree in Haddonfield (with the iconic Halloween theme playing at the same time). Watching Michael seamlessly move from house to house, just killing and wrecking lives as he goes, it feels like we’re just being helplessly pulled along in his wake.

Aside from the havoc involving Michael, which is undoubtedly my favorite part of the film, the part of the film that really pulled me in is everything to do with Laurie’s PTSD from what Michael did to her 40 years ago. This is something that I haven’t really seen covered in a horror film before: what happens to that lone survivor who gets away? Given the brutality in the first film, it’s no wonder Laurie Strode has become what we see in this film: a deeply paranoid woman (albeit a badass one) who is nowhere near recovered from the trauma she endured as a teenager. Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance is completely mesmerizing .

Quick side note: I wanted with all my might to reach through the screen and smack some sense into Laurie’s daughter Karen. I get on some level why Karen resents her mother, but the way the character came across just grated on me.

One other scene I wanted to discuss in this review and that’s THAT scene in the bathroom. I remembered seeing hints of this scene in the previews, back when I was going to be brave and watch this film in theaters (I’m so glad I didn’t, this film would’ve broken me on a big screen) and being completely terrified then. Well let me tell you the bathroom scene in full does not disappoint. The tension is almost painfully thick the moment the door opens and you just KNOW that Michael is in there with his next victim. And once the violence erupts….it just doesn’t stop. The sheer violence in Michael’s actions, it just burns into you.

And then there’s the music, oh god that music….you don’t know how happy I was that the 2018 continuation makes ample use of that iconic theme throughout the film. That, more than all of the easter eggs, really serves to bind this film to the original. Because as soon as you hear that music, that eerie theme, your brain just knows “this is a Halloween movie.” Having heard this music in two Halloween films (so far), I dare to say that this is my favorite horror movie theme, I haven’t heard one yet that instantly sends a cold chill down my spine the way the main theme for Halloween does.

Ultimately I’m glad I finally worked up the nerve to watch the 2018 Halloween. It’s a good continuation of the story, with more than enough easter eggs and nods to the original film to satisfy any fan of the original story.

Let me know what you think about Halloween (2018) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Halloween (1978)

My Thoughts on: Halloween II (1981)

My Thoughts on: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

My Thoughts on: Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

My Thoughts on: Halloween Kills (2021)

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My Thoughts on: Titane (2021)

I am normally content to wait until a movie comes to my local movie theater or, barring that, waiting for a DVD release to see a film I’ve been wanting to see. But when it came to Titane, the second film from director Julia Ducournau…ever since I listened to the film’s soundtrack last week my interest in this film escalated to a near-obsession. So much so, that when I found out Titane was playing at a movie theater 2 1/2 hours away from me, I made arrangements to drive up and see it, I was that eager to see what this film was all about.

After sitting wide-eyed through Titane, I can still feel my brain reeling from what I experienced. I fully admit I don’t understand everything I saw in this film, but I know I liked it.

Titane is set in France and follows a dancer named Alexia who gains some…unusual….tendencies after a skull injury is repaired with a titanium plate as a child (from this we derive the title of the film). I’ve let this film percolate in my brain for close to a week now and to be honest I still can’t adequately put into words what this film is about past that point, and to be honest I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. There’s definitely a message in there about love and acceptance (even if that love comes from an unhealthy place) but it’s all tied together in a story that is extremely twisted and not for the faint of heart. I also can’t help but wonder if there was a metaphor buried in the film about the risks that can come from having unprotected sex, as that’s the only explanation I can come up with for THAT scene (you know the one I mean if you’ve seen the movie) early in the story.

Be assured, Titane is well-named as a body horror film, though it wasn’t quite for the reasons I was expecting. Regardless, there are several moments in this film that will make you feel deeply uncomfortable, though I’m proud to say I only had to look away once. What really surprised me about Titane is this one part in the middle that veered into black comedy. It was a turn that came out of nowhere and isn’t repeated once the moment passes, but for some reason it completely works. Titane as a whole is not a movie that you would think would make you laugh, but this moment did make me laugh, and I liked that the movie was able to do that.

The one part of the film that really surprised me is how the music actually fit in with the film itself. If you’ve seen my soundtrack review for Titane, then you know I imagined the first half of the soundtrack as being set in some twisted, metallic temple, but having seen the film I realize that isn’t quite accurate now. Instead, I realize that the more appropriate description for the first half of the music would be to say that it is set inside Alexia’s mind, showing how empty she is (in more ways than one). It’s only as the story moves forward and develops, and we follow Alexia’s story, that the music fills out. I do stand by my interpretation of the end of the soundtrack though: my image of a twisted cathedral remains intact, especially (minor spoiler warning) if you consider that final scene a subversion of Madonna and Child.

The point is, Titane is one of the best films I’ve seen this year, the fact that I can’t put all of my feelings about it into words doesn’t change that at all. Julia Ducournau is now one of my favorite directors and I can’t wait to see what she creates moving forward (as well as checking out her directorial debut Raw).

Let me know what you think about Titane in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

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Soundtrack News: Far Cry 6 Original Game Soundtrack Available Now

Ubisoft Music has digitally released the FAR CRY 6 Original Game Soundtrack from the highly anticipated sixth main entry in Ubiosft’s critically acclaimed Far Cry franchise. The music was composed by Pedro Bromfman. Pedro has composed scores for MGM’s RoboCop; three seasons of the hugely popular Netflix series Narcos; the EPIX feature documentary Deep Web, narrated by Keanu Reeves; the 6-part series The Story Of Us With Morgan Freeman for Nat Geo; Jessica Sanders’ Sundance hit End Of The Line; the 8-part series Chain Of Command and Alex Winter’s Panama Papers, narrated by Elijah Wood.

The soundtrack features 21 tracks from the highly anticipated sixth main entry in Ubisoft’s critically acclaimed Far Cry® franchise – set to release October 7 worldwide on Xbox Series X, PlayStation®5, Xbox One, PlayStation®4, Stadia, Amazon Luna and for Windows PC exclusively on both the Epic Games Store and the Ubisoft Store.

Composer Pedro Bromfman said of the soundtrack release:

“The album is based on a very modern score, drenched in lush soundscapes, driving percussion, processed organic instruments and a ton of synthesizers…We tried to capture the soul of Yara, and its characters, by rooting the score on traditional Latin American and Caribbean music, while being completely free to experiment with contemporary sounds, elements and techniques, in hopes of creating something very fresh and unique…The score for Far Cry 6 overflows with distinctive, haunting melodies and character themes, accompanying and further immersing the players in their amazing journey through Yara. A journey full of beauty, violence, adrenaline and passion.”

Pedro Bromfman discussed the importance of “Libertad” – the soundtrack’s focus track and main theme, within Far Cry® 6:

“‘Libertad’ came about as a theme for Yara’s revolution. We needed a powerful melody, full of beauty and longing like the island itself, that could also encompass the grit, darkness and pain of a bloody war. With heavy percussion and electric guitar “Libertad” quickly builds and explodes into an anthem for Yaran’s, young and old, fighting for their freedom.”

Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, Far Cry® 6 immerses players into the adrenaline-filled world of a modern-day guerrilla revolution set in Yara, a tropical paradise frozen in time in the heart of the Caribbean. Playing as local Yaran Dani Rojas, players will explore an entire island nation and join the revolution to liberate its people from the oppressive rule of dictator Antón Castillo and his teenage son Diego – brought to life by Hollywood stars Giancarlo Esposito (The Mandalorian, Breaking Bad) and Anthony Gonzalez (Coco).

Track List

  1. El Presidente**
  2. La Espada
  3. Libertad*
  4. The Tourist
  5. Rebuild Paradise
  6. Batter Up
  7. Valle de Oro
  8. Viva Clara
  9. We Are Lions
  10. Fist of the Revolution
  11. ’67
  12. Supremo
  13. Madrugada
  14. The Guerrilla
  15. Tiger and Cub
  16. The Poison
  17. Los Montero
  18. El Este
  19. The Lion and the Lamb
  20. Balaceras
  21. Antón

Will you be checking out the soundtrack album for Far Cry 6?

See also:

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

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