Happy Death Day

Musical Score By: Bear McCreary

Distributed by: Back Lot Music

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                In the horror thriller, Happy Death Day, Jessica Rothe is Theresa “Tree” Gelbman,a young college student who is murdered on her birthday.  After each time she is murdered, she wakes up to find herself in the dorm room of classmate Carter Davis (Israel Broussard) and begins reliving the day she was murdered all over again, with subtle differences as Tree struggles to stop her death by discovering the identity of her murderer.

                The musical score of Happy Death Day was created by award-winning composer and musician Bear McCreary.  Hitting the scene with his score for the reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series, McCreary has been the go-to guy for television series scores with credits including Agents of SHIELD, The Walking Dead, The Cape, Outlander, DaVinci’s Demons, Defiance and more.  But McCreary hasn’t just been tapped for television series scoring.  He has created musical scores for Dark Void, God of War, Rest Stop, Wrong Turn 2, Step Up 3D, Chillerama, The Forest, The Boy, 10 Cloverfield Lane and Colossal.

                The Happy Death Day Soundtrack is a mix of orchestral and electronic sound.  Day One features long drags up and down strings, accompanied by keys that offer up an uncomfortable feel at first.  We then move into a synth, electric guitar duo that eventually is accompanied by percussion and strings.  This piece of scoring is somewhat upbeat – as if Tree is experiencing normal events in her day.  However, the score eventually turns into something darker, more sinister, with strange background sounds.  Day Two, Three and Four are variants on Day One, with each track becoming more sinister thanks to sound manipulation.  Moments of action in which Tree tries to escape her fate are fast-paced and percussion laced with freaky noises added in.

                According to Bear McCreary, these noises have an origin in innocence.  Using the idea that Tree’s killer wears a baby-faced mask, McCreary decided to use his three-year-old daughter to provide inspiration for the killer’s musical voice, recording her noises and manipulating them throughout the score: “These sounds of her giggling and whispers were digitally mangled and distorted, until they became terrifying vocal textures, with menacing bass, crackling breathy overtones. One baby whimper in particular became the theme for the killer, wailing like a banshee over the score. I combined the baby voice with a full orchestra, and the end result truly terrified me. I am hopeful it will have the same effect on the audience.”

                I have to agree, those manipulated sounds made by McCreary’s daughter freaked me out.  Initially, I thought it might be the main protagonist’s voice being distorted, so to learn that this was McCreary’s own child’s vocals distorted enough to creep me out was quite a surprise.  I also like the manipulation of the music from Day One to Day Two and so on.  It’s as if I can see Tree looking around her with surprise as the same thing happens again and again, that echoey background music offering a surreal quality to the visuals. 

                The score of Happy Death Day is quite an interesting listen – as unique as the film itself.  I can definitely see how McCreary’s music perfectly complements the visuals of the film, making it that much creepier and adding greatly to the hair-raising moments.  Another job well done!


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