Music By: Nathan Barr
Distributed by: Lakeshore Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Some time ago, a co-worker was telling me about this horror film they had seen called Shutter. The film, a remake of a 2004 Thai film of the same name, featured Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek, Fringe) as Ben Shaw, a photographer whose work takes him to Tokyo, Japan. On the long journey to their new home, his wife Jane (Rachel Taylor) begins seeing visions of a young woman and later, strange imagery in photographs they take. Shortly afterward, Ben begins to experience severe shoulder pain. Still, Ben brushes off the strange happenings that all seem to involve a young woman he claims he has never seen before. When things intensify and people they know are murdered in mysterious ways, Jane begins to wonder if Ben isn’t hiding something from her. Her worst fears are realized as she discovers that some mysteries are best left unsolved.
Listening to my friend’s description of the movie, I found the plot behind it to be intriguing, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it. I have discovered that when Asian and Japanese horror are remade American style, they tend to lose something. Having watched the original versions of remade films such as The Grudge, The Ring and The Eye, I found that American translations of the film didn’t seem to match up. Yet, there was one thing about each of the film remakes that seemed to work for them – they all had musical scores that aided the visual department in delivering horrific scares upon the audience. In fact, often times, the music was more fear-inducing than the visuals. So, when I received the soundtrack for the Shutter, I couldn’t wait to hear it.
The musical score of Shutter was created by composer Nathan Barr. At the tender age of four, Nathan Barr began studying music in Tokyo, Japan. He grew up surrounded by music of every style, experiencing music performed in Kabuki theater, performed by his mother on the koto and the piano, and performed by his father on the banjo , guitar and shakuhachi . Later, Nathan Barr’s extensive travels opened him up to new styles as he experienced music in Bali, China, Italy and Switzerland. Upon graduating college, Barr tried his hand at alternative rock, playing guitar and electric cello in the band V.A.S.T. Eventually Barr moved to Los Angeles, where he met award-winning composer Hans Zimmer and became his assistant. By 1998, Barr was composing music for his first feature film and he hasn’t stopped since. Composing music for films like Hostel, Hostel II, The Dukes of Hazzard, Grindhouse, Lost Boys: The Tribe and more, Nathan Barr is known for his unique style. Often using rare instruments that he will perform himself, Barr’s compositions are known to span the genres.
As I stated earlier, I have noticed that it is the music that sets up the horror scenes in films of this genre and Shutter is no exception to this rule. The soundtrack begins in an upbeat mood, somewhat reminiscent of music one would find on a Pure Moods album, signifying the hope and wonderment of moving to a new and exotic location. One particular piece, a cello theme perhaps representing Jane, can be found in various tracks throughout the musical score. After that first track, the music takes on a very different style, designed to scare the hell out of the listener. Nathan Barr employs a variety of techniques designed to scare listeners/viewers throughout the film. Wire brushes drawn across cymbals , producing an eerie whispery sound, are used to represent strange occurrences. The brush-over-cymbal technique is used more frequently as the soundtrack progresses. Use of rare instruments, combined with reverb, also serve to produce an eerie effect.
Just after Track 8, Fly in the Eye, the music composed by Nathan Barr takes on a more urgent tone leading me to believe that Jane is coming closer to discovering the secret behind the visions she has been seeing and the mysterious blur to the pictures she and her husband have been taking. Loud clashing music is used to signify a reveal of sorts in Track 17. I won’t tell you what that reveal is, in case you want to see the movie, but I can actually picture the events that take place in this segment of the film while listening to this track. The soundtrack ends with the beautiful love song Good to Me, written by Lisbeth Scott and Nathan Barr and performed by Scott. The ending song, a portion of which finds its way onto one of the earlier tracks in the musical score, seems to signify that the horror is over for at least one of the characters in the film. However, this could signify something completely different…a sort of obsession fulfilled. It all depends on how you take it.
Nathan Barr has done an incredible job with the Shutter Soundtrack. He has created a musical score that will scare the devil out of you without the visual aide of film. I can only imagine the effect of this music playing along to the various scenes throughout the movie. The music is designed to perfectly enhance the visual aspect of the film, rendering the listener/viewer chilled to the bone by the final track. Kudos to Nathan Barr for a job well done.