In his liner notes to Rocky Gray’s score to his film The Barn, writer and director Justin Seaman, says that The Barn was the movie he’d dreamt of making when he was eight years old: “The Monster Squad meets Night of the Demons meets Night of the Creeps.” The movie’s not yet had a general release, so we can’t judge as to whether or not The Barn meets those lofty goals, but Gray’s score certainly evokes every aspect of that ‘80s horror triptych.
However, it’s the haunted house vibes of the main titles that set this score apart from the start. You get the sense that Gray is going for something different, wherein he’s trying to show that Seaman’s film isn’t just another ‘80s homage: it’s an ‘80s homage that recognizes all aspects of the genre. The violins on “Hallowed Jack” counterpoint a synthy vibe, making the idea of “classic” stretch back to include classic creature features.
There’s plenty of synth, enough to evoke the classic feel of that era, with the likes of the funkily eldritch “Lovecraftian,” but, really, that’s expected from a throwback score these days. Gray does it well, but it’s something that is basically de rigeur at this point. It’s not anything especially different, although it must be mentioned that The Barn’s score does Carpenter worship properly, remembering that there were quiet moments in those old Halloween cues, effectively presenting the less overt -- but nonetheless still unsettling -- version of that aspect in “I Don’t Believe.”
The metal guitars tie everything together. Night of the Demons and The Monster Squad were, really, hard rock movies as much as they were horror films. Screaming solos to which you can air guitar, really lets you hear the fact that Gray has an affinity for all aspects of the time and place to which Seaman is giving tribute. One’s inclined to wish there were more guitar, but it works because it’s used so sparingly. Too much would spoil the fun. Ending with a great bit of hard rock balladry works wonders, though.
The cover art is amazing, the vinyl release sounds great, and the liner notes fold open like a set of barn doors. A lot of thought went into this, and it’s just a fabulous release to hold in your hands, even if it’s sans the usual bells and whistles of tip-on sleeves and so on. It was honestly more refreshing to get a download card than anything else.
Ultimately, though, this is worth seeking out in any format. While the retro horror boom might occasionally be seen as losing steam, the likes of Gray’s score for The Barn gives hope that fresh sounds can be birthed from old concepts.
THE BARN (2016) / COMPOSER: ROCKY GRAY / LABEL: LUNARIS RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW