Soundtrack Review: Poltergeist

In 1982, the horror film genre was given a fresh and original entry in its then already impressive list of pictures. Under the production of Steven Spielberg and the direction of horror genre pioneer Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), a new film and type of fright was created. That film of course is Poltergeist, the insanely creepy and heart-pumping horror/thriller that inspired many an audience to watch scary movies with the lights turned on. The film was a huge success at the time, spawning two sequels, a TV series spinoff and for purposes of this review, a lackluster reboot and subsequent soundtrack album. Both the film and score aren’t exactly works of art but they accomplish the goals they were originally made to do: to entertain.

The 2015 Poltergeist is a relatively uninspired film with a strong cast and beefed up scares. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt play a pretty grounded couple who are raising three young children. The family moves into a new house in the Illinois suburbs and eventually, evil spirits begin to terrorize and threaten their happy existence. They then call “ghostbusters” to come and clean up the place. The evil spirits are quite fond of daughter Maddy (Kennedi Clements) as they abduct her and the rest of the film has her parents fighting to get her back.

Sounds like a good movie? Well, it was back in 1982 and to a lesser extent in 1986 for the sequel. The music however is quite good, with composer Marc Streitenfeld (Prometheus, Robin Hood) providing a score that is equal parts frightening and equal parts tender and family-oriented. The first track “Poltergeist Opening” establishes the film’s tone strongly with a playful yet creepy theme. We then get some electronic metallic scraping sounds with a rendition of the main theme in “They’re Here”.

A lot of the album is filler score and would be great playing in the background during a Halloween event. The carnival motif in “They’re Not Pretend, Mommy” is particularly effective and “Clown Attack” is a genuinely scary track with Jaws-like thumping ala John Williams. “Into the Closet” is also a very strong cue with a nice rendition of the main theme. “A Poltergeist Intrusion” is a fairly bipolar track with many highs and lows, frightful, quiet, with another appearance of the main theme. The next track “Home Improvements” continues this type of bipolar style, starting off with quiet underscore, creepy wailing-like sounds (which sound very ghost-like), punctuated by loud crashes. “Take a Peek” offers one of the best renditions of the main theme and “I Feel a Little Braver” is one of the better tracks because it references the late great Jerry Goldsmith, the composer responsible for scoring the original Poltergeist. In this track, we get an angelic-like motif which is very much in the style of the 1982 film score.

“Reunited” contains a lovely family theme and “Let Her Go” is action-packed, climactic and reminiscent of the action style of composer Danny Elfman. Lastly, there is “Home Free”, which is by far, the album’s most bipolar track. It opens with the carnival theme in full force, followed by loud crashes, ending with a music box lullaby, complete with maniacal clown laughter. A horrifying end to a diverse and stylistically wild score. Basically, if you are a diehard fan of the Poltergeist films and more specifically, Mr. Marc Streitenfeld, then I highly recommend this score. The nods to other composers’ works is quite apparent and the creativity and originality is alive in there as well. All in all, the album blends the old with the new and it is very much a musical adventure.

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