Stay Alive/John Frizzell

June 6, 2006

Stay Alive


John Frizzell

The poster of this new film shows, at least for me, a classic picture of the tag on the toe in the morgue immediately reminding me of the edited corpse scene from "Sunset Boulevard." The title of the film immediately conjured up the melody from the John Travolta "Staying Alive" film which I started humming and stayed in my brain for quite sometime. Neither statement could be further from the truth! This is neither drama or disco music but a horror score blended with electronic and traditional orchestral music from a familiar genre to the composer John Frizzell, who has previously written scores for "Cradle to the Grave" and "Ghost Ship" among others. The target market is the younger "video gamer" generation as the story is about a game called "Stay Alive" which chronicles the story of a 17th century noblewoman "The Blood Countess." As the gamers begin to be murdered one by one exactly like the video game the adventure begins as they begin to put the connection together. Directed and co-written by William Brent Bell, a relative newcomer in the directing field, box office figures indicate he has hit his market correctly and will likely be heard from down the road. For those of you who are interested in trivia, this was the final film production done in New Orleans before hurricane Katrina struck.

As a reviewer who has listened to film scores for 45+ years the newer electronics never cease to amaze me! Electronics have certainly evolved from the theremin and the moog synthesizer with the sampling, resampling, in tune, out of tune, forward and backwards techniques this Logic Pro sequencing software can generate! In today's world a composer should not only have a degree in music but also one in computer programming, something which John seems to be quite comfortable with. Yet he has also mixed the standard chamber style music to produce a score worthy of more than one or two listens. An excellent example of the blending can be found in the track "playing the game" which has dissonant strings, the sounds of bats flying, soft piano, and wierd sound effects in the cue that complement the film. The tracks "mourning phinn" and "butch's story" reveal the influence that James Newton Howard must have had on John. You notice it in the harmony of the strings which complement the softer sounding keyboard cues. John worked with James on both "Dante's Peak" and "The Rick Man's Wife" and while the overall styles are completely different, the influence is quite evident. No horror score is complete unless it has some slashing strings and this one is no exception as it starts off right away on the first track with "enter the house" a combination of electronics and James Bernard/Bernard Herrmann style of frantic type music. "Winning by a rose" has some insect swarm music, something which Jerry Goldsmith made famous in "The Swarm." In fact what would horror music be like without the influences of Goldsmith and Herrmann?

This recording is the very first release on the Nicabella label and according to the press release sent with my review copy it is a special limited collector's edition of 1,000 copies so earlier rather than later would be a good time to purchase this recording. Some of the recording information is a bit sketchy such as who conducted the orchestra, who was the orchestra, recording dates etc. While the track listing includes the individual time plus the total time, I found the artwork used quite difficult to read and had to strain my eyes to make out the exact wording of the track titles. These however are minor disagreements and shouldn't prevent you from giving this score a try. While "Some music I just don't understand" was my initial reaction to this score, repeated listens, something which a good reviewer has to do, revealed quite a deeper understanding as to what John was attempting to accomplish. Recommended.

Produced by Ray Costa & John Frizzell

Album Consultant Ford A. Thaxton

Engineered by Cenda Kotzman at CNSO in Prague

Mixed by Frederik Wiedman and Micha Liberman

Track listing

1. Enter The House (01:51)

2. Loomi’s Funeral (02:18)

3. Playing The Game (06:03)

4. Finn Plays Alone (01:55)

5. Strange Things… (01:21)

6. Investigation (03:01)

7. Phinn Dies (01:21)

8. Mourning Phinn (02:04)

9. Hutch’s Story (01:39)

10. Loomi’s House (02:07)

11. Meet The Counters (02:34)

12. End Of October (01:10)

13. Winning By A Rose (03:25)

14. Abigail Is Captured (01:39)

15. Going Below (02:05)

16. Countess And Abigail (01:36)

17. Final Encounter (02:12)

18. In Stores Now (00:45)

Total Duration: 00:39:06

Track listing


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