Michael Wandmacher's score for this voyeuristic stalker thriller is a bit of a frustrating experience because amid moments of familiar synth action and flight cues – fast-rising and equally fast-evaporating burst of synthetic brass eruptions and string ostinato – there are moments of genuinely eerie unease and grace before the album's abrupt end.
“Envelope / Murder Google” is a nice balance between low-range frequencies and flights of gentle, almost naïve melodic phrases on woodwinds. The cue devolves into a mix of bass piano hits, airy breathing, wind undulations and sleek strings that waft upwards and co-mingle with some metallic shimmering, but among the otherwise predictable shock cues throughout the album, it's a better example of Wandmacher's innately quixotic writing that rarely focuses on a whole theme and keeps the listener on edge.
“Entering and Breaking” also shifts between differing tension modes, with sections of his synth orchestra flipping between a flight motif of fast-rising strings and stripped-down melodic sections, but like many cues, it's also very short, indicating the filmmaker's preference for score that either hovers in the background as borderline sound design, or surges up when bad things happen fast.
“Remorse,” like some of the album's early cues, offers a gentle melodic respite, and shows Wandmacher quite capable in conveying nuances of emotional trauma through some clean orchestrations. Even action cues like “Fight” benefit from peripheral use of hollow wood block hits or more discreet brass, whereas in “Projector” the composer plays with a similar ascension of blurred strings much in the way John Frizzell emphasized a deliberate musical disconnect between individual players in sections of his aleatoric score for Stay Alive (2006).
Where The Killing Floor disappoints is in rather unexpected areas. For a mostly synth and sample-based score with retro-nineties brass and synth emulations, it's surprising how little bass resonance resides in the action cues, not in short moments where Wandmacher applies heavy synth pulses; even the multi-textured sonics of tomandandy (such as Right at Your Door) ultimately dip into some warm, tactile frequencies, so it's surprising that Wandmacher chose to mix the score in such a clinical fashion, and one that also places the instruments at a marked distance from the listener. The orchestral sounds don't really envelope, which is a shame, given a cue like “Follow” features some nice low woodwinds and brass, multiple percussion taps, synth pulses, bass hits, and swells from synthesized strings, with a sleek closing with funky keyboards.
As a thriller score, The Killing Floor is adequate, but it falls short of a necessary edge and resonance to make it a memorable effort. Unlike Charlie Clouser, whose own synth-heavy scores tend to follow very narrow thematic and thin atmospheric pathways, Wandmacher shows an adeptness that could create a stirring work if given a broader palette that included a small orchestra in place of orchestral samples, and characters whose roles aren't solely defined by moments of angst, flight, fight, and lethal trauma.
To read an interview with the composer, click HERE.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan