Soundtrack Review: MONSTERS

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
November 16th, 2010

Rating: 4/5

Although I knew close to nothing about MONSTERS going in to see it, I left the screening unable to think about anything other than what I had just watched. Having not read anything about the film or even seen a poster for it, I wondered if it was this pure mentality that caused MONSTERS to leave such an imprint on me.

From the performances to the scenery to the music, I was quickly and completely consumed by writer and director Gareth Edwards’ world. Even though it has been months since I saw the film, listening to the soundtrack brought me right back to the place the film slowly, but surely, creates.

MONSTERS marks the first feature-length film for composer Jon Hopkins, having previously worked on the short ROB AND VALENTYNA IN SCOTLAND. That is not to say Hopkins is new to the world of music, quite the opposite, as he has worked with such artists as Brian Eno, Imogen Heap, Massive Attack, and Coldplay. His experience with electronic made him the perfect fit for a film about something a bit out of this world.

The soundtrack teeters on the line between classical score and one infused with more modern electronic elements. This balance of old and new inhabits every frame of the film itself and allows for some strikingly beautiful moments. The film’s visuals are not stunning due to over the top CGI or other groundbreaking effects, but because in a scene where everything is as we know it, there is an element or two that is otherworldly. Hopkins' score goes right along with this idea and helps enhance these moments.

Any film where very few words are spoken and the landscape itself is breathtaking, the music almost becomes its own character as it fills the space between these points. Hopkins succeeds in creating something that is a fully developed character while still fitting in perfectly with the rest of its surroundings. Much like the monsters in the film, you do not know exactly if they are there, but when they are, you know it without a doubt. Pieces like “Journey” and “Water” play to the background whereas “Underwater” and “Dawn” grab a hold of your attention and let you know immediately that the environment has changed.

Even on hot button tracks like “Attack” and “Encounter,” you do not have the music coming directly at you, it instead feels like it is almost all around you, and you just want to get away from it. It is not that the music is scary, it is certainly uncomfortable, but more than anything – it is sad. There is a palpable melancholy that runs through these tracks that says more than any dialogue or visuals would ever be able to fully express.

The single word (expect for the film’s theme) song titles continue this idea of simplicity as we move through the film. The story itself has important and climatic moments, but you almost feel as though you are watching a documentary as each moment feels so real and honest. Hopkins' score is without a doubt a large part of the reason you are able to fall so easily into Samantha (Whitney Able) and Andrew’s (Scoot NcNairy) world.

I distinctly remember the song that played at the end of the film (“Monsters Theme”) and thinking that it felt like coming up for air. It had a pace and lightness to it the rest of the music purposefully lacked. The fact that it was almost uplifting was much needed relief after accompanying Sam and Andrew on their journey, but it was also telling that the piece with that tone was the one to act as the theme of the entire film.

The score is all at once sweet, sad, tense, and powerful – all adjectives that could apply to MONSTERS as well. You learn quickly that this is a film unto itself with a style and tone that may be subtle, but is in no way ineffective. MONSTERS has ranked as one of my favorites of this year and the soundtrack is without question the musical equivalent of the film.

This soundtrack is available through Double Six Records.

1. “Prologue”
2. “Journey”
3. “Candles”
4. “Water”
5. “Underwater”
6. “Spores”
7. “Campfire”
8. “Dawn”
9. “Attack”
10. “Temple”
11. “Encounter”
12. “Monsters Theme”

All the songs on this soundtrack composed by Jon Hopkins.

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