Kevin Williamson's directorial debut after the meteoric success of Scream and TV's Dawson's Creek consisted of an oddball script originally titled Killing Mrs. Tingle, but things changed when paranoiacs felt the lurid title would motivate slackers to fixate on the elimination of their most annoying teacher(s).
While the film mostly hovered on Mrs. Tingle's one-dimensional meanness and her griping while being strapped to the bedposts by her student captors, the dullness of Williamson's script didn't deter the film's composer from writing a score that evoked a wickedly mordant tone amid the usual pop songs larded within a teen suspense-comedy.
The score album from Varese runs just under a curt half hour (with an admittedly brief final cue), but it's a good sampling of John Frizzell's largely orchestral (and very bubbly) music. Arranged out of chronological order, the album's sequencing establishes its own narrative, setting up the quirky main theme and 4-note motif, and some mystical suspense cues, such as " Untie Me. .. Please," which establishes the mixture of shock (and hidden joy) the students feel when Tingle is seen tethered to her bedposts after surviving an errant arrow encounter.
"The Crossbow Incident" provides a more comical theme variation, with heavy chords and a muted synth bark that discreetly recalls Jerry Goldsmith's use of a squeaky toy in The 'Burbs . Flutes, harp, and various combinations of strings vividly repeat the theme, while barely audible enhancements - notably a mouth bow - adds an extra sprinkle of silliness to Williamson's black comedy.
Another cue, "My Mom has Been Very Sick," deliberately leans into weepy bathos, as Frizzell uses a high register chamber orchestra with interwoven violins to carry a high-pitched melody, reminiscent of sappy thirties tearjerkers. Other cues, such as "Get a Television, Mrs. Tingle" and "Close Your Eyes" dip into sleek, small jazz combo, with tinkling piano, smooth soprano sax, and resonant string bass and vibes prominent in the latter cue.
"I Know You" also reveals the range of emotions that can accompany simple writing - here for low string bass, and the gradual addition of mid- and high-level strings - and vivid performances by expert musicians. Fluid transition between ominous strings and a delicate piano phrase also demonstrate the emotional range in each cue, and as a whole, Teaching Mrs. Tingle reveals a less dissonant side of Frizzell, particularly when placed beside his better-known horror scores, such as Thirt3en Ghosts, and Ghost Ship.
For an interview with John Frizzell, click HERE.
© 2006 Mark R. Hasan