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HALLOWEEN SOUNDTRACK REVIEW
— August 22, 2007 —

The Shape of Fear reviews Rob Zombie's original motion picture soundtrack of HALLOWEEN

Spanning 24 tracks and a wide variety of musical styles and genres, the soundtrack of Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN is a clever collision of popular tunes, dialogue clips and score recordings which entertainingly demonstrate the writer/director's creative plan to defeat expectation and put his unique stamp on a classic tale of terrible fate and the monstrous embodiment of evil.  Think of it as the music of Michael Myers — the soundtrack of a psychopathic mind obsessed with the past while wreaking havoc on the contemporary world around him.   Explore this enjoyable anthology of tunes and film cues track-by-track below, and discover a CD which represents a rich sample of what Rob Zombie has in mind for his horror show, HALLOWEEN:

Cover art for HALLOWEEN soundtrack

Track 1 - "THESE ARE THE EYES" (0:39)

HALLOWEEN's soundtrack opens with psychological incantation of Dr. Sam Loomis, describing the dark essence of Michael Myers to an audience unaware and unprepared to discover the murderous void behind his uncaring eyes. Actor Malcolm McDowell's delivery of this 40-second speech set up the professional fascination and, eventually, the personal obsession Loomis has with his silent, masked patient who remains unhealed by any therapeutic treatment at Smith's Grove Sanitarium. At the soul of Michael Myers is "the absence of light" and the destroyer of souls.

Track 2 - HALLOWEEN 2007 - Tyler Bates (3:05)

The film score begins with Tyler Bates' haunting, eerie interpretation of John Carpenter's original HALLOWEEN theme, as a female voice drifts in and out through the opening build-up. Abruptly the musically iconic 5/4 plinking tones begin but with slightly warping reverb effects and sharpening repitch that throws the listener's ear off-balance from nearly three decades of melodic expectation. The opening female voice turns desperate amid the cacophony, uttering moans, gasps and cries now as lower-tone growls and howls seem to chase at a distance. Several electronic effects and sounds punctuate the chords as if stabbing and slicing the tune at high points, while a low driving rhythm echoes Michael's relentlessness as a lethal killing machine. As the staccato stabs of piano hits conclude the main theme, the sound of Michael's animal breath echoes from inside his mask. As well known as Carpenter's original composition is to three decades of fans, Tyler Bates has definitely put his own creative stamp on this classic movie theme, sharply and successfully distinguishing it and Rob Zombie's film from its 1978 progenitor.

Track 3 - "IS THE BOOGIEMAN REAL?" (0:04)

A very quick sound bite from Skyler Gisondo as Tommy Doyle, asking babysitter Laurie Strode if that mysterious figure looming in the shadows of Halloween is more than make-believe. The answer soon becomes all too real for Laurie and those around her in Haddonfield.

Track 4 - (DONT' FEAR) THE REAPER - Blue Oyster Cult (5:08)

The first of Rob Zombie's picks from the popular music soundtrack of the '70s is this radio and album rock classic from 1976. As it always has done, Donald Roeser's dark, foreboding lyrics lurk in the shadows contrasted by the energetic guitar strains and wispy vocals of the band. The song perfectly fits this timeless and time-warping tale which is both familiar and nightmarish, in which lives will be saved or lost amid the fear of an evil none fully understand.

Track 5 - "ARE YOU SAYING MICHAEL DID THIS?" (0:17)

The voices of Sheri Moon Zombie and Malcolm McDowell play out part of a scene in which Deborah Myers learns of her son Michael's psychological danger signs. Dr. Loomis suspects that the boy's torture of small animals may lead to much more serious acts of violence.

Track 6 - LOVE HURTS - Nazareth (3:52)

The theme of causing pain continues on in this selection of Nazareth's 1975 ode to heartache and emotional turmoil. This second recall from a generation ago exposes love's power to destroy those most vulnerable to it, especially when wielded as a weapon by those who are betrayed by love -- or worse, those who can't feel it at all. The tune is another memorable anthem to the disconnection between people, and the epic suffering it can cause in the minds and hearts of those who fall into the abyss of darkness which results. If this song appears where I think it will in the film, it would be a brilliant counterpoint between character and action.

Track 7 - "I HOPE SHE LIKES CRIPPLES" (0:14)

Actors Sheri Moon Zombie and William Forsythe enact a verbal battle between Deborah Myers and her abusive boyfriend, Ronnie White. This sampling of dialogue (replete with humorous use of parental advisory language) quickly illustrates the couple's utterly dysfunctional relationship, leaving little mystery why pain and emotional withdrawal become a central preoccupation of young Michael Myers.

Track 8 - BABY, I LOVE YOUR WAY (LIVE) - Peter Frampton (4:50)

Rob Zombie's third dose of '70s acoustic environment spins out in this Frampton smash hit from his landmark 1976 live concert album. The tune is surely a contrast in mood and tempo to the previous song selections, adding an upbeat and lyrical look at the healing, harmonious power of love. Consistent with director Zombie's goal to have the early act of his story feel reminiscent of the period while not locked into a specific decade, Frampton's classic echoes the past for those who grew up playing this album, while remaining timeless in its appeal today. Listeners will have to wait another week before they learn how Rob Zombie fits this joyous tune into his dark study of a psychopathic killer.

Track 9 - "A TACO DELUXE SUPREME" (0:13)

Having escaped from Smith's Grove Sanitarium, adult Michael Myers encounters Big Joe Grizzley in a men's room, who is not pleased with this invasion of privacy. But the momentary inconvenience and Grizzley's verbose bravado quickly vanish when the scene soon takes a turn for the worse. Again Zombie contrasts humorous characterization with dramatic danger.

Track 10 - TOM SAWYER - Rush (4:33)

Though technically not a musical release from the '70s, this popular 1981 release gained tons of airplay on AOR-format radio stations and solidified Rush's place in rock history. Riding the musical cusp between '70s and '80s sound and subtext, Tom Sawyer stands out as another highly evocative track selection for HALLOWEEN.

Track 11 - "DRIVEN BY PURE ANIMAL INSTINCT" (0:10)

On the verge of Michael Myers' transfer from Smith's Grove, Dr. Loomis warns of Michael Myers' hidden, horrific urges to kill. Having failed to cure Michael, all Loomis can do is make an unsuspecting world aware that a monster lives and lurks among them.

Track 12 - LET IT RIDE - Bachman-Turner Overdrive (4:23)

The soundtrack returns to the early '70s with the inclusion of BTO's enduring rock classic. The tune's instrumentation, vocals and production all evoke the distinct audio palette from its 1973 release. Much like tracks 4 and 10 before it, Let It Ride pulses with a driving beat, urging the song and listener onward just as the Halloween theme does in its off-kilter measure. Perhaps reminiscent of nature's perfect killing machine, a shark, this song reinforces the thematic motivation of Michael Myers to march ever-forward toward his psychopathic fixation, destroying anyone in his way.

Track 13 - "TRICK OR TREAT, BABY" (0:07)

Bill Moseley and Leslie Easterbrook, acting alumni from Rob Zombie's previous film THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, play two security officers in charge of transferring Dr. Loomis' patient Michael Myers. Moseley's character, Zach Garrett, delivers the Halloween-themed pun without knowing the true nature of the trickster in their custody until it's much too late.

Track 14 - GOD OF THUNDER - KISS (4:14)

Leave it to a band which practically has a patent on the '70s larger-than-life rock experience to provide what amounts to Michael Myers' own murderous anthem, God of Thunder blasts out epic chords of sacrifice and destruction at the hands of a mythic titan laying waste to the mortal world before it. Rob Zombie might have picked ten more well-known tracks by KISS, but perhaps none which draws a sharper picture of HALLOWEEN's menacing agent of true evil.

Track 15 - "SATAN'S MOTHER" (0:12)

A brief dialogue clip voiced by Zombie-favorite actor Sid Haig as Chester Chesterfield, who relates the ultimate fate of Deborah Myers, left to cope with the bloody aftermath suffered by her family at the hands of her only son.

Track 16 - 1969 - Iggy Pop (2:45)

Proto-punk icon with his band The Stooges, this Iggy Pop selection from 1988 unfurls a hectic tale of restless wandering amid turbulent times, in search of or exploiting a lack of personal direction and purpose. It's another high-energy track picked by Zombie, perhaps chosen to illustrate the commonly-felt uncertainty about life and often youth's lack of awareness how precious it is.

Track 17 - "TALKING ABOUT THE ANTI-CHRIST" (0:06)

Actors Brad Dourif and Malcolm McDowell enact a moment between Sheriff Brackett and Dr. Loomis in which the two men charged with upholding rational judgment in Haddonfield are faced with a force of utterly irrational peril. Brackett too has a personal interest in the actions of Michael Myers, as his daughter Annie is one of the citizens living under the lurking threat of an escaped killer.

Track 18 - ONLY WOMEN BLEED - Alice Cooper (5:45)

Actually preceding KISS is the makeup-masked visage of this iconic rocker from the '70s, Alice Cooper. This track was a Top 10 hit from Cooper's megahit 1975 solo album Welcome to My Nightmare, and its ballad sound played off somewhat darkly themed lyrics -- a far cry from the gothic and grotesque theatrics of Cooper's stage concerts. Almost subversively, this ballad directly addresses the thematic elements of emotional abuse and physical violence in HALLOWEEN. If this ends up a sad, soulful theme song for the unfortunate Deborah Myers, it's an apt choice indeed.

Track 19 - "NEEDS TO GET LAID" (0:11)

Another short dialogue snippet which happily, humorously earns the parental advisory label, this brief buddy moment between Laurie Strode and Lynda illustrates a typical bond between gossiping girlfriends.

Track 20 - HALLOWEEN II - The Misfits (2:11)

With influences mixing movie monsters and heavy metal, the horror punk band released this track as the B-side to a 7" single in 1981, though the title merely coincidental to the John Carpenter-produced sequel released the same year. Director and musician Rob Zombie shares a passion for classic film creatures and art with The Misfits, who fuse distorted vocals and instrumentation with gothic themes and lyrics to celebrate the darker side of edgy rock. Lead vocals by Glenn Danzig incant the word Halloween repeatedly within the driving punk beat and background groans.

Track 21 - "WAS THAT THE BOOGIEMAN?" (0:07)

Actors Scout Taylor-Compton and Malcolm McDowell enact a scene in the climax of the film, as Laurie puts the burning question of this bloody holiday to Michael Myers' doctor. Sometimes evil can actually live and walk amongst us, as the two are about to find out.

Track 22 - THE SHAPE STALKS LAURIE - Tyler Bates (3:51)

Tyler Bates returns on the CD with another stylish reinterpretation of John Carpenter's iconic compositions from the 1978 film. Bates' version, however, bears a more industrial, acoustic stamp than Carpenter's synthesized score piece. This track builds a threatening auditory environment around the infamous stalking theme until the pounding, ominous keyboard plays out the cue. Bates' reworking retains the style and substance of Carpenter's original track, but creatively embodies the disturbing, gritty texture of Zombie's realistic approach to the horrors spilled onscreen by Michael Myers.

Track 23 - "THE SCREAM" (0:12)

The sound of true terror, performed by Scout Taylor-Compton as Laurie Strode in a climactic shock from the film.

Track 24 - MR. SANDMAN - Nan Vernon (3:27)

This is a most curious and welcome tune selection by Rob Zombie, since this song (originally by The Chordettes) didn't appear in the HALLOWEEN cinema timeline until 1981's HALLOWEEN II, most infamously in the end credits as the mask of Michael Myers bubbles and burns in the flames of a hospital corridor. Here Nan Vernon reinterprets the 1954 hit by slowing down the speedy doo-wop style, and performing her own four-part harmony filtered in a breathy style almost reminiscent to the bass-reduced sound of some 1930s/40s records. The slow tempo and vocal effects enhance the dreamlike mood sung about in the lyrics, at the same time certainly taking the effervescent joy out of the tune, perhaps by design depending on its context in the film. Will Vernon's tune underscore the tale of Michael Myers as an awakening from a bad dream, or a final descent into a dark nightmare?

Listening to the HALLOWEEN soundtrack won't provide you with a solid answer, but this collection of original score, dialogue tracks and rocking blasts from the past certainly provide a varied and enjoyable musical journey through the film. Once again, Rob Zombie demonstrates his talent for picking identifiable, often iconic musical hits which evoke specific moments and memories of the past while remaining timelessly appealing today.

Tracks by artists such as Rush, BTO, Nazareth and Peter Frampton stand proudly as individual tunes which have endured by merit, yet their unrelated tunes tie in so well and so cleverly to the dramatic themes of Zombie's film in ways few other creative minds could envision. If the HALLOWEEN soundtrack's success on these multiple levels of meaning are any indication, Zombie's original retelling of this horror cinema classic tale will soon have movie audiences screaming for more.

Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN opens in theaters everywhere on August 31, 2007.

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