Stay Alive (Score)

Composed by John Frizzell

The score of a horror movie – not the soundtrack, but the instrumental music that is used throughout the film – is employed as a tactic to set the mood and “set up” the scares. Though often subliminal, it is a critical aspect of horror movie making. A weak score may not break a horror flick, but a strong, innovative score – such as John Carpenter’s work in Halloween or The Fog – will become as much a part of that film’s identity as the story itself.

Though not breaking any new ground, composer John Frizzell’s score for Stay Alive contains many classic horror elements, and if his score is any indication (I had not seen the film yet when writing this revuew), Stay Alive should feature dark, ominous tones and a fair share of high-intensity scares.

Frizzell is a multi-faceted composer, having scored everything from such horror flicks as Ghost Ship and the sci-fi jaunt Alien Resurrection to comedies like Beavis & Butthead Do America and Office Space. While his biography boasts that he often uses “a colorful array of instruments for his scores,” Frizzell stays with a more traditional horror formula for his Stay Alive score. The violin (or a synthesized version of a violin) is the instrument of choice here, and it is used to create both subtle sounds and screeching tones at widely varying volumes.

Often times the aural “scares” seem to rise out of nowhere, then recede just as quickly. It’s as if there is a menacing, sinister force that attacks savagely, from out of the shadows, then withdraws into nothingness.

But even with an evident abundance of action, Frizzell’s Stay Alive score still has its calmer moments – though they are no less haunting. The sadness associated with the death of a character (I cannot reveal track names, as they will give away major plot lines) is often accompanied by a melancholic piano melody, one that appears intermittently throughout the score. Though it is a very memorable and tuneful aspect to the score, it relays a sadness that is palpable.

Not everything on the Stay Alive score is by the book. The signature of Frizzell’s score – and what may be the most memorable aspect for movie viewers – is the repeating, rapid-fire violin barrage that appears in the most intense moments. Hard to describe yet very distinct, this musical tactic is highly effective at creating a sense of conflict and urgency. In short, if someone is about to die, this is the sound you will likely hear.

If you’re on your way to check out the debut of Stay Alive sometime soon, don’t just watch – listen. You might be surprised at how much of an impact the score has on your viewing experience.

3 ½ out of 5

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