The return of John Carpenter to the public consciousness has been a wonderful thing. His Anthology: Movie Themes 1974 – 1998 is a reminder of how many memorable soundtracks he is responsible for. The eerie hum of The Thing, the mysterious piano twinkle of The Fog, and the sci-fi grandeur of Assault on Precinct 13 to name just a few. Within very tight constraints, Carpenter has been able to craft a legacy of synth music built on little more than a few tones and sheer atmosphere.
Of all his work, nothing has been as iconic as Halloween. The theme tune is so widely known it not just supersedes Carpenter himself but the horror genre in general. With the return of Carpenter to the series as executive producer on the new instalment (due out this month), the director has provided a revamped soundtrack that pays homage to the iconic sounds of the series.
Speaking on his return to soundtrack duties, his first in the series since 1982’s Season of the Witch, Carpenter explained “I could create a new score, we could update the old score and amplify it, or we could combine those two things.” The result is the third proposal: the original pallet of sounds re-imagined and amplified in exciting ways.
The title theme is still the hallmark, the central focus around which the rest of the album rotates. Filled out and amplified, it serves as a fantastic introduction to Carpenter’s vision for this new soundtrack: the best of his work, only moreso.
The incessant 5/4 stomp of the original Halloween theme is intact, a mechanical rhythm mirroring the relentless march of Michael Myers himself. That icy piano riff ebbs throughout a variety of synths and interpretations, alongside the tick-tick-tick of stopwatch drum machines.
Add to that a variety of musical stings, Zimmeresque blasts of synth bass, and jabbing keys which mirror the violence on-screen, and Halloween fans will feel very at home.
However Carpenter is not afraid to try new things. The most ambitious track, ‘The Shape Returns’, serves as a smorgasbord for all the ideas that make Carpenter unique. Beginning with a musical sting lifted from the original movie, the track changes gears from intrigue to menace, fear to terror.
This new Halloween score from John Carpenter contains all of the invention of the original, gilded by bumper production and a range of exciting and engaging new directions. Toe-tapping this is not, but it can immerse like few others.