The Movie Sleuth continues its series of reviews on vinyl soundtracks.
When we think of David Cronenberg, cold and clinical images of extremity come to mind with unbending characters who are on a transformative journey either physically or psychologically. The introductory chapters of Canadian provocateur David Cronenberg’s mainstream oeuvre are singular expressions of absolute body horror which manage to transcend in just how far they get under the skin viscerally and symbolically. Aiding to the sense of doom are the largely apocalyptic scores by newcomer and fellow Canadian composer Howard Shore. After a brief stint on the Canadian video nasty I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses, Shore met Cronenberg in 1979 for the surreal science fiction body horror tale of marital discord, The Brood. With exception to The Dead Zone which was scored by Michael Kamen, Shore proceeded to score every single David Cronenberg film, amassing fifteen films all the way up to the recently released Maps to the Stars. Like Steven Spielberg’s working relationship with John Williams or Darren Aronofsky’s with Clint Mansell, Cronenberg and Shore formed a unique team in which Shore knew Cronenberg’s intentions like the back of his hand. While terror isn’t exactly what the two artists aim for with their horror, Cronenberg and Shore most certainly create a mood of despairing unease where nothing good can come of the bizarre and dangerous situation at hand.
With both The Brood and notably Scanners, Shore created a unique mixture of electronic synthesized sounds that are positively otherworldly. While The Brood presents the dynamic duo in the process of figuring things out, Scanners on the other hand announces a formidable creative pair who devised a monaural soundtrack that with one channel of sound still manages to overload the senses with things never heard before. A standout scene in Scanners involving an exploding head starts out with a subtle mechanized bass sound before gradually building up into a static, radiophonic shriek, climbing and climbing until a literal climax of blood, brain and skull ensues. Whenever a Scanner, or a person with telepathic or telekinetic abilities, makes use of their superhuman powers, the soundtrack comes alive with truly peculiar electronic sounds. Another standout scene comes near the end when Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack), the film’s heroic scanner, does battle with Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) and the soundscape is flooded with distorted sounds accompanied by Shore’s mournful strings evoking a sense of horror and apocalypse. Initially you would think this was all part of the film’s otherworldly sound engineering, but it turns out much of the sonic distortion on the soundtrack was created by Howard Shore!
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Alongside the recent Criterion Collection blu-ray release of David Cronenberg’s seminal 1981 groundbreaking horror film Scanners (and hopefully soon to be Criterion blu-ray of his 1979 gut-cruncher The Brood) is Mondo Tees’ release of the soundtracks to both films for the first time ever on vinyl. Composed by regular collaborator and Academy Award winning composer Howard Shore, the two scores would form the basis of an ongoing thirty year working relationship between the composer and the famed science-fiction horror provocateur. With the limited edition release available exclusively on mondotees.com, the company and Howe Records have done something a little different with this release. Instead of releasing two separate soundtracks, Mondotees have produced a two-cover LP which, like the vinyl itself, has the soundtrack for Scanners on one side and The Brood on the other with original cover art designed by Sam Wolfe Connelly. Better still, the website offers two different customizable pressings to choose from, either as a grey vinyl with green splatter evoking the external womb conclusion of The Brood or a bone vinyl with brown and red splatter evoking the infamous head explosion scene in Scanners.
As with all of Mondo’s releases, the disc has been pressed on 180 gram vinyl for premium audio fidelity. While there’s a lot more on the Scanners soundtrack than the introductory work on The Brood, having the two paired together on one vinyl set is a fantastic addition to any vinyl listener’s and/or Cronenberg aficionado’s library. The packaging is great all around and like the movie will give your stereo a truly extraterrestrial aural experience!