3 out of 5
Produced by: Thomas Dimuzio (vinyl master)
Label: Waxwork Records
I’ve watched my horror. I’ve got a pretty stacked list of classics and undergrounds and outre viewings under my belt. I definitely watched The Howling as part of my education, but beyond that transformation scene, I have to admit the film never ranked too highly for me. It’s been a long time, sure, and I watched it in a rush to get caught up on such movies, so it’s possible I missed out on appreciating it, but regardless, it’s sort of filed into my brain’s pile of “average, but notable” horror movies. (There’s a lot there.)
I’ve appreciated Pino Donaggio’s scores elsewhere, and I was expecting for this soundtrack to carry the emotiveness I’ve come to associate with the composer, making the music more memorable, for me, than the movie. To a certain degree that’s true, as Donaggio delivers a pretty mature score – something a bit deeper than I would’ve mentally mapped to the more humorous tone of the flick – but… it unfortunately also fulfills my initial impressions, as, excepting some amazing climactic moments at the end of side A, the score doesn’t really come out with its own sense of identity. It’s pretty, but also kinda sorta sounds like how a lot of 80s horror movies sounded – I didn’t detect any themes that stood out to make me know this as ‘The Howling;’ played out of context, I wouldn’t be able to tell you what movie the music belongs to, even though I’ve recently been through the album several times now for review.
As mentioned, though, there are some points where things suddenly shapes up: the concluding tracks on the A-side, and End Titles on the B-side are quite gorgeous and thrilling. These draw a comparison to the rest of the album as feeling rather restrained or uncertain – like Donaggio was holding back, uncertain exactly what tone to aim for. But once committed to fully composing a song or toward capturing an emotion, the score immediately livens up and breathes.
The included bonus tracks at the end of the B-side are an iffy way to pad out the runtime. They’re mostly repeated cues, but it looks like these have been part of prior editions of the score, so that is what it is.
Waxwork went with Francesco Francavilla for the artwork, which is only too fitting, and the mastering for vinyl sounds good, though maybe my wishy-washy reception prevents me from praising its fidelity beyond that.