Composed By: The Newton Brothers
Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Ten years ago, Tim Russell (Brenton Thwaites) was accused of murdering his parents (Roy Cochrane and Katee Sackhoff). Sent to a mental hospital after insisting that his parents deaths were caused by a supernatural entity living within an antique mirror in their home, Tim has finally been released and all he wants to do is move on with life. But his sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) believes her brother is correct – that the mirror is indeed possessed – and she is determined to prove that the mirror and not her brother is responsible for her parents death. Kaylie and Tim are about to embark upon a journey that they may not make it back from.
The musical score of Oculus was created by the composing team called The Newton Brothers. Andy and Taylor Newton have been making music together since their childhood. Raised on opera, radio, concerts and movies, the two developed a career that would combine both their love for music and for movies. Known for creating music from the least likely of instruments, The Newton Brothers have amassed quite a résumé including musical scores for Pawn Shop Chronicles, Setup, Detachment, High School and more.
I’ve always believed that a good musical score is needed to make a horror film that much scarier. The music should enhance the events in the film. Often times, composers chose to create their score around the scenes in the film, rather than creating separate themes and incorporating them into a larger score. The Newton Brothers somewhat mixed the two styles, creating a central, ominous theme and then inserting it into music that they created around the various scenes of the film. They created a theme representing the mirror that features pulsating reverberated dark and heavy sound. According to The Newton Brothers, “The theme for the mirror ended up being this pulsing bass…super simple, but incredibly effective.”
While I found the mirror theme to be quite effective, I was disappointed in the Oculus Soundtrack as a whole. I have to wonder when it was that horror film score composers became more concerned with sound effects than music. The musical score is mainly comprised of strings performed in lower registry to create an ominous air. A variety of classic horror cues are moved to startle the viewer or make them feel uncomfortable during various scenes. For example, Fingernails features a cacophony of screeching strings, while Oculus features a children’s choir which always adds a special spook factor to a horror film (remember the themes of The Amityville Horror and Nightmare on Elm Street).
There were a couple of interesting tracks on the album, especially the Paul Oakenfield/Newton Brothers mix of the Oculus track which features a heartbeat mixed with the mirror them, piano and a choir. That being said though, I found the Oculus Soundtrack to be lacking in musical style. Most of the tracks on the album sound incredibly similar in nature. While I have no doubt that The Newton Brothers have created the perfect accompaniment to an incredibly spooky film, I can’t recommend it as a standalone album. The score has interesting moments, but it doesn’t really represent anything I haven’t heard before.