Annihilation is a science fiction horror film written and directed by Alex Garland in his second outing as a film director. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer and follows a group of military scientists who enter “the Shimmer,” a mysterious quarantined zone that is full of mutating landscapes and creatures. Annihilation stars Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, , Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson and Tuva Novotny and was released on February 23rd, 2018.
The soundtrack of Annihilation was scored by composing duo Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow, who previously worked with Alex Garland on the Academy Award winning film Ex Machina (2015). Ben Salisbury is an Emmy-nominated composer with over 100 film and television composing credits to his name, including Beyonce Knowles’ self-directed documentary feature Beyonce: Life Is But A Dream and the last 3 series of David Attenborough’s acclaimed Life Of… strand for the BBC. Geoff Barrow, known for his extensive body of work as a music producer and founding member of the band Portishead, first began his film music career as the music supervisor and original score writer for graffiti artist Banksy’s Oscar-nominated documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop. He recently worked on the band Arcade Fire’s latest album Everything Now in addition to producing a cover of ABBA’s “SOS” with Portishead for Ben Wheatley’s film adaption of High-Rise.
The first thing I noticed about this soundtrack is that it is clearly related to the music of Ex Machina. It is not identical, per se, but it clearly comes from the same tonal family as the previous film. I don’t say this as a bad thing, in fact, it’s not uncommon for multiple soundtracks from the same composer (or group of composers) to retain similarities across each film. I also think the resemblance has something to do with Annihilation being considered the “spiritual” successor to Ex Machina.
That being said, if you liked Ex Machina and its soundtrack, then you will love the soundtrack for Annihilation. Like the soundtrack for Altered Carbon, most of the tracks contain the same elements: long synthesized tones, metallic wind chimes, and vocal tones. Despite the similarities, some of the tracks did stand out to me.
“Shimmer Reveal” is only 38 seconds long but it catches the ear because it starts very soft and steadily grows in volume. As the volume increases, the melody “thickens” with a deeper synthesized tone. It feels like we start looking at a small picture which quickly expands into a panoramic landscape (in fact this is probably when we get our first in-depth look at the “shimmer” which can only be that mysterious thing that Natalie Portman’s character is seen walking into in the previews).
“Abandoned Army Base” is half-mystical and half-sinister in the way it combines a synthesized drone with “creaking” metallic tones that sound like metal being ripped apart and metallic chimes that put me in mind of a monastery. Given that this is a science fiction horror film, I can only presume the sinister component I hear is due to someone or something hiding at this abandoned base, just waiting to snatch an unsuspecting victim (of course I could be wrong, but that’s what it sounds like). And going back to Ex Machina, this track in particular reminds me of Ava’s theme.
I have to bring attention to “In All of Us” simply because this track breaks the overall pattern and includes a melody from a guitar, which is so unexpected that it jars the ear when it arrives. “We Are Headed That Way” which follows that track, is interesting to me because of its title. Given the trailer’s hints that “the Shimmer” is causing a mutation of some kind, I wonder if this title refers to the idea that everything on Earth will eventually be affected by this mutation. Truthfully I can’t wait to find out what “the Shimmer” is actually doing, the visuals in the previews looked amazing.
And those are my thoughts on the soundtrack for Annihilation. The soundtrack is currently available via Lakeshore Records and I hope you enjoy listening to it. My thanks to The Krakower Group for making this soundtrack available for review.
If you’ve seen Annihilation, what did you think of the film and its soundtrack? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, but please no spoilers, I’m seeing the film on Wednesday night 🙂
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