Ramin Djawadi is best known for his epic scores for the likes of Westworld, Pacific Rim, and Game of Thrones, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to hear what he's done with Brandon Campbell for the recent horror film, Slender Man. Based on the popular viral urban legend, Slender Man is about a mysterious character who torments young people. Given his intimate details - long arms that reach out to ensnare his victims, a featureless face - the score would obviously need to be creepy and disconcerting, as if the music were being played directly on the listener's nervous system. Thankfully, this soundtrack easily achieves that goal.
There's definitely some big, bold sounds, but Djawadi and Campbell have created a score which evokes all of the autonomic system responses one would expect from being absolutely terrified. It's as if they took inspiration from a diverse array of inexplicable, disturbing sources, and combined them into one terrifying collection. "Scalpel", for instance, has the pounding drums of a Brad Fiedel Terminator score paired with electronic screeching that's like the sound of a cemetery gate. The title track takes a violin and plays it dissonantly, almost in reverse of how the notes are expected to go. "Three Bells" is a masterwork in music so quiet, one wonders if the volume's up loud enough on the stereo, all quiet strings and subtlety, then screeching violins that would give Bernard Herrmann a heart attack.
The entirety of Campbell and Djawadi's work feels like ice on the listener's spine, being ran up and down while needles are poked against the skin. It's astonishingly uncomfortable, and very effective at giving a listening experience that's mildly exhausting. It's not subtle, certainly, as Djawadi's a go big or go home kind of composer, but it's definitely scary, utilising the action drums and swirling violins as frequent counterpoints to keep the listener off balance. It results in Slender Man becoming the auditory equivalent of jump scares, in that it's very effective at terrifying the first go-round, but repeated exposure renders the score less powerful. It's still entertaining, but definitely a bit of a one-trick pony.
While it's necessarily mastered quieter than most of Music on Vinyl's other releases, in order to keep the sudden jumps in volume from destroying one's hearing and / or speakers, Ramin Djawadi and Brandon Campbell's score sounds rather pleasant. The quietness allows those stabs to really leap out, as well.
Slender Man is a limited edition of 666 copies (of course). The packaging is simple, with the movie poster as a cover, and the condensation on the window carried over to the rear of the jacket. The poster is reproduced in miniature as an insert, featuring liner notes on the reverse as well. The LP is pressed on swirled vinyl, looking ephemeral as smoke, yet still sturdy on 180-gram vinyl.
SLENDER MAN / ARTIST: RAMIN DJAWADI & BRANDON CAMPBELL / LABEL: MUSIC ON VINYL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW