Tag Archives: Midsommar

Soundtrack Review: Returnal (2021)

On May 7th, Milan Records released the original soundtrack to the newest Playstation 5 game Returnal, with the music composed by Bobby Krlic. Best known for his work as the Haxan Cloak, Bobby Krlic brings his experience as an award-winning composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist to Returnal, imbuing the score with a gritty and experimental quality that matches the tone of the third-person shooter game. The album marks Krlic’s first-ever video game title as lead composer and follows his critically acclaimed, award-winning scores for director Ari Aster’s Midsommar, Hulu’s Reprisal, TNT’s Snowpiercer and The Alienist.

Bobby Krlic (aka The Haxan Cloak) is a British artist, composer and record producer based in Los Angeles. Over the past decade, he has created music under The Haxan Cloak, releasing two critically acclaimed full-length albums (The Haxan Cloak and Excavation) and touring extensively as a solo artist, building a devout fanbase. In 2015, Krlic began collaborating with fellow producer and Oscar-winning film composer Atticus Ross on soundtracks including John Hillcoat’s Triple 9 and Michael Mann’s Blackhat. Since then, Krlic has scored a number of major network television shows including TNT’s SnowpiercerThe Alienist: Angel of Darkness and Hulu’s Reprisal as well as a recent collaboration with Swans for Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2. Notably, he wrote the much lauded original soundtrack to Ari Aster’s sophomore feature film Midsommar, for which Krlic received The Ivor Novello for Best Original Score in 2020.

In Returnal, after crash-landing on a shape-shifting alien planet, Selene must search through the barren landscape of an ancient civilization for her escape. Isolated and alone, she finds herself fighting tooth and nail for survival. Again and again, she’s defeated – forced to restart her journey every time she dies. Through relentless roguelike gameplay, you’ll discover that just as the planet changes with every cycle, so do the items at your disposal. Every loop offers new combinations, forcing you to push your boundaries and approach combat with a different strategy each time.

The music for Returnal is, well, it’s really incredible. I was immediately intrigued by the game’s “caught in a time loop” premise and wondered how the game’s music would play into that concept. As far as I can tell, the music does connect to that idea of time repeating itself over and over again, though not in the way I thought it might. Most of the tracks sound warped and distorted, there are sudden, static-like sounds that cut in and out of the music, and my favorite part? There are times when it sounds like voices are cutting in to the music, creating this muddled effect that makes it sound like you really are lost in time.

The instrumental mix is about what you’d expect for a game like Returnal, a combination of electronic instruments and synthesizers mixed in with choral voices. What really caught me by surprise though is how calm the music is for the most part. Given what I’ve heard about this game, I was expecting sci-fi music that was more action-oriented, or at least faster-paced. But it’s nothing like that, and it’s making me seriously reconsider what this game is all about. This sounds like a more cerebral game than I initially thought, and I’m very excited about that. I like games that require you to think and this music makes me think Returnal is one of those games.

If I have one complaint about the soundtrack for Returnal, it’s that it’s surprisingly short, there’s only nine tracks in total. I don’t know if that speaks to the overall length of the game, but I’ve seen some soundtrack albums that are three times as long, and it was startling to see this one be so short.

That minor issue aside, I enjoyed the soundtrack for Returnal, and I think all of you will too.

Returnal Track List

  1. The Crash
  2. The Forest
  3. Helios
  4. Citadel
  5. Murals
  6. Recessed
  7. Motionless
  8. A Mysterious Device
  9. Dream Already Seen

Let me know what you think about Returnal (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

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Video Game Soundtracks

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My Thoughts on: The Wicker Man (1973)

I’m honestly not sure when The Wicker Man first came to my attention, but the idea of seeing it has been in my head for awhile. While my general aversion to the horror genre is hardly a secret, I heard so many times about how this was one of those films you must see before you die that I finally decided, once I found a copy, that I would sit down and watch it, for better or worse. It also didn’t hurt that Christopher Lee is in this film also (I’ll watch just about anything that has him in it).

If you haven’t seen the original The Wicker Man, the story follows Police Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) as he travels to the (fictional) Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a complaint about a missing child, Rowan Morrison, that’s been sent to him via an anonymous letter. A simple investigation quickly goes sideways when everyone Howie meets protests that Rowan either a) does not exist or b) died six months earlier. Not only that, but the devoutly Christian Howie is horrified to discover the entire island follows a pagan religion with Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee) happily ruling at the top of it all.

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Right away I could feel major Midsommar-vibes coming off this story and indeed they are similar in broad strokes. You have an outsider encountering a pagan culture they do not understand, there’s pagan symbolism everywhere, and oh yes, there’s human sacrifice at the end. I investigated and found out that both Midsommar and The Wicker Man (the original version anyway) both belong to a sub-genre of horror known as folk horror. This sub-genre contains stories that focus on the “old religion” and ritualistic practices. Given I’ve watched and enjoyed two films from the folk horror genre, it might be I’ve finally found a niche of horror that is for me after all. But I digress, back to The Wicker Man

I find it very interesting how Howie is presented to the audience. Given how prevalent Christianity is all over the world, you might think that at least some of the sympathy would be with Howie as he goes about his investigation on Summerisle. But Howie, as Woodward plays him, is so uptight, and so self-righteous, that he quickly becomes unlikable. He has no tolerance for anything that deviates from the norm, and there’s a lot of things on Summerisle that you don’t normally see. Now, to be fair, the police sergeant does make something of a good point at the end of the film when he points out that sacrificing him is tantamount to murder, but it also reveals how little Howie understands life on the island. Except for that little part about human sacrifice, the villagers on Summerisle aren’t hurting anybody by following the old religion, but Howie can’t stand for it regardless.

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The pivotal moment with the titular “wicker man” was just as amazing as I’d been led to believe. I found out that Edward Woodward insisted on not seeing it until the moment of filming, which makes his scream of “Oh God, oh Jesus Christ!” upon seeing it so utterly believable. Also, I will never look at the song “Sumer is icumen in” in the same way ever again.

One thing I keep turning over and over in my head is the sacrifice at the end of the film and what it’s intended to do. You see, the old religion was established on Summerisle over a hundred years ago to help with the growth of the apple orchards on the island. But the previous year was the first year the harvest failed, hence the sacrifice at the end of the film, the idea being that a human sacrifice will appease the gods and allow the apples to grow again next year. Howie maintains that the apples are going to fail anyway because fruit isn’t meant to grow in this region. And yet…I can’t help but wonder….what if the sacrifice works? Or at least appears to work. Even though the results of the sacrifice are never revealed, I have a feeling Lord Summerisle has nothing to worry about even though Howie implied that he himself would be the next sacrifice should the crops fail again. If that was the first time the fruit didn’t grow in over 100 years, it seems unlikely that they would permanently die off just like that. Even if they are slowly dying, it doesn’t happen that quickly, so it’s more likely the fruit will continue for a while longer. I just hate how certain Howie seems that the fruit trees are never going to bear fruit again. I guess I can’t help but wonder “what if Howie’s wrong and all of this works anyway?”

What I’m trying to say in all of this is that The Wicker Man is an amazing film and one that everyone should definitely see at least once. Christopher Lee steals every scene he’s in. I also really loved all of the songs in this film, if I’d known how musical The Wicker Man is I would’ve watched it years ago.

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

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My Thoughts on: Midsommar (2019)

*some minor spoilers may have gotten out without me realizing it

Where do you start with a film like Midsommar? I’ve been puzzling over that ever since I got home.  See, Midsommar was nothing like what I expected going in.

In fact, I think it was better.

The biggest thing that surprised me about Midsommar was how much it resonated with me. I did not expect to identify so closely with Dani (Florence Pugh), who travels to Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends to see the titular festival. Dani really does remind me of me, especially early in the film when she talks about her fears of driving away her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). I’ve had near identical conversations in my brain at times, and from that point on, no matter what happened, I was firmly in Dani’s corner for the rest of the story.

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And what a story. I admit I was afraid going in because Midsommar was described as belonging to the horror genre, a film genre that most of you know by now I try to avoid whenever possible. But this…this isn’t like any horror film I’ve ever seen before. There’s a few scary moments to be sure, but nothing like what I expected.

As for how to describe the story…honestly I’m still not sure if I can put it into words. On the strength of one viewing, I’d have to say a lot of Midsommar is about Dani finding herself as she’s immersed in this strange and yet oddly wonderful world deep in the Swedish countryside. I say that, despite knowing that there are some parts of this village’s life that deeply disturb me (for spoiler reasons I won’t say what they are). But apart from those, I found myself drawn to how the villagers live together. Unlike some stories, I feel like the villager’s actions are 100% genuine, there’s no evil entity in the shadows, no monsters to be fed (well, not in the conventional sense), just villagers living the life that has always worked for them.

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My favorite part of Midsommar is watching how Dani slowly, very slowly, begins to grow (the Maypole scene was superb) and learn to deal with her emotions. She goes through a lot in this story, and it was absolutely cathartic to see her end up in what is arguably the perfect support network (unlike before where she was largely left alone with her emotions).

Overall, Midsommar is one of the best films I’ve seen so far this year. It drew me in, it held me, and it certainly didn’t feel 2 1/2 hours long. If you get the chance, go see Midsommar in theaters while you can, you won’t regret it.

What do you think about Midsommar? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and have a great day!

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Film Reviews

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