The first half of Kreng's score for the zombie children movie Cooties is an absolute dream of weirdness. The Opening Titles soundtrack the voyage of a chicken nugget in the film, but on its own, the melding of Omen-like chanting with toy piano, and then layering in a kazoo orchestra is both delightful and terrifying.
The first few cuts which follow the opening titles are echo-y exercises in drums and atmosphere. The electronic distortion starts to amp up as the score progresses, making its first appearance in Dink Spreads the Virus. The Omen chorus returns in Mr. Simms Attacked, along with some really dissonant violins which start to take the score from ominous foreshadowing of doom to actively participating in the onscreen destruction.
The Playground is an absolute masterpiece of a trippy, uncomfortable soundscape. It brings to mind a lot of the great instrumental hip hop cuts of the last decade, sounding a lot like The Avalanches or Clutchy Hopkins, utilizing as it does that spare, far away piano and the scattered, skittering beats.
Trike Girl bases itself around a music box version of All Around the Mulberry Bush, and the sound of a Jack in the Box hasn't been this terrifying since Poltergeist. It's also the last of the creepy, atmospheric stuff until nearly the end of the score. For the back half of the film and the score, the music is all bombastic electronic sprites and tribal drums. It stops being horror and turns into action/adventure, and while sonically well-executed, it's not really this reviewer’s cup of tea. Bifurcating the album into the more experimental first half and the rather more usual second means that Cooties' score isn't going to get a lot of full play-throughs.
Dink's Death is the rare cut that leans into the action vibe which manages to avoid sounding cliched. It helps that Kreng lays pretty heavily on the pitch-shifting for its duration, lending it a sense of disorientation. Carnival does a solid job combining the earlier found-sound aesthetic of Trike Girl with the blasting weirdness of Dink's Death, while not falling into the standard “pounding drums with squidgy bleeps” minefield.
It's strange: when you watch the film, it takes a bit to get going, then really peaks in the middle, before kind of piddling out into a series of clichés at the end. The score starts out strong, then troughs a bit in the middle, before recovering near the end with Wandering in the Dark and Carnival. However, much like the film, the score has enough moments of cleverness and brilliance to balance out its excursions into stock concepts.
COOTIES (2014) / COMPOSER: KRENG / LABEL: MILAN RECORDS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW