Elia Cmiral’s latest horror score is for a particularly nasty little gem from director Toby Wilkins, which has a trio trapped in an isolated gas station while some blood-hungry thing is determined to break in and devour the lot, if not infect them with sharp splinters that’ll render them into similar flesh-tearing parasites.
It’s a classic B-movie tale, and Cmiral’s music is just as compact as the film, and devoid of any melody or tenderness, although “Dennis’ Sacrifice,” briefly offers some tragic strings. The opening titles are a bit too evocative of Basil Poledouris’ Breakdown theme (one wonders if Wilkins had temp tracked his title sequence with Poledouris’ music), but Cmiral quickly introduces the score’s main stylistic traits: impressionistic sounds, with heavy distortion and percussion clusters. There’s also a synthetic chime that forms a pall of doom, setting up Cmiral’s periodic use of low, ambient tonal hits before an aggressive ball of digitized fury.
The soundtrack album’s been tightly sequenced (and somewhat out of order), and while a brief score, it’s a punchy work that grabs all kinds of sounds into smoothly rendered aural assaults. “Attendant Kills Lacey,” for example, is comprised of variously interwoven percussion textures (some electronic, some pseudo-organic) with trilling trumpet, metallic rattling, and rapid, fuzzy pulses.
Trumpet and surging low brass also figure in “Infected,” a short and vicious little cue wherein Cmiral evokes the sense of a sharp skin-piercing object. Strings skitter about like a mass of microbes (the creature is basically a parasite that expands from a cellular level), and metallic slams signal the sharp pain that a character faces when the first splinters break out of his hand.
In the film, much of the score blends with the formal sound design, so it’s actually hard to hear the album cues in the final film mix. (One is also distracted by the grotesque visuals, proof of how well the score works in the film as one of the main dramatic elements – visual effects, performances, and sound effects – that make the splinter’s assaults so horrifying.)
Cmiral’s music was intended to straddle sound design, but there are so many wonderful nuances that got lost in the mix. BSX Record’s limited CD preserves every note of this gem, filled with plenty of modern scoring ideas that have been pureed with electronics.
Among Cmiral’s horror scores, Splinter is one of his best, and is deliciously brutal when played loud.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan