The Wicker Tree
Musical Score By: John Scott
Songs By: Keith Easdale
Distributed by: Silva Screen Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
A companion piece to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, the 2011 horror film called The Wicker Tree stars Brittania Nicol as Beth Boothby, a successful pop turned gospel singer and devout Evangelical Christian. Beth and her fiancée Steve Thompson (Henry Garrett) belong to an evangelical group called Cowboys for Christ who travel around the world preaching Christianity to heathens. When Reverend Moriarty (James Mapes) sends Beth and Steve to Glasgow, Scotland to save souls, they are shocked at their negative reception. So, when the laird of Tressock invites them to take part in the village’s May Day celebration, Beth and Steve jump at the chance, never quite understanding just what they have actually gotten themselves into.
On July 9, 2012, Silva Screen Records released The Wicker Tree Soundtrack as a two-CD set, featuring a musical score composed by John Scott and performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and songs written by Keith Easdale.
John Scott is a British composer who received his first music instruction from his father, a musician in the Bristol Police Band. At fourteen years of age, Scott enrolled in the army as a Boy Musician, continuing his studies of clarinet, harp and saxophone. After touring with some of the top British bands of the time, Scott was hired by EMI and performed with such notables as Ravi Shankar, Nelson Riddle and Cleo Lane. Performing saxophone for Henry Mancini on John Barry’s Goldfinger Soundtrack inspired him to compose musical scores for film. Since then, he has created over one hundred musical scores for television and film, including The Final Countdown, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lionheart, The New Swiss Family Robinson and more.
Keith Easdale is a traditional Scottish musician, composer and producer who began playing music professionally at the age of sixteen, recording an album with Philabeg. A multi-instrumentalist, Easdale has traveled the world over performing in such famous venues as the Royal Albert Hall in London and the United Nations in New York. A founding member of Calasaig and a soloist for the Scottish Fiddle Orchestra, Easdale has produced albums in both hemispheres. Having a passion for traditional music, Easdale has worked to educate others in the nuances of traditional music as a way of preserving the arts.
I must admit, I have been putting off reviewing this soundtrack, worried that it would be as unimaginative as many musical scores created for horror films have become. I have noticed that quite a few composers have moved away from the traditional orchestral music used in horror films and have embraced electronic sounds, using loud outbursts of such sounds and low registry music to spook the viewers. While the first forays into this new style were quite imaginative, as more composers began using the style, it has become repetitive and quite stale. I longed for the older scores that used traditional instruments to instill fear in the audience.
With Autumn’s arrival, I could no longer put off listening to The Wicker Tree Soundtrack. After all, Halloween was coming and what better time to listen to a horror soundtrack than now. After listening to the musical score by John Scott, I realized that I had seriously erred in waiting this long - this was a composer who knew how to use his orchestra to scare the dickens out of his audience.
The musical score of The Wicker Tree is a perfect throwback to the horror scores of the past, using horns and quick string slashes to accentuate the scarier moments of the film. Lulling you into a sense of security with the innocence of the song Promises, which becomes the theme of the young evangelistic couple, he attacks using percussion, bass and horns to spook the listener. There are Gaelic undertones to the score, describing the atmosphere our young evangelists have traveled to, always a plus with me as I am quite a fan of such music.
As for the songs, I found them to be rather interesting. The song Promises describes the vow of love and promise between Beth and Steve sealed by their rings. The lyrics are a tad weak, and the vocals sound like a Debbie Gibson 80’s track, but the meaning makes sense to the film. Interestingly, the last track of the first CD features a song named Follow Me. That song is almost an exact duplicate of Promises with some slight lyrics changes. While that song seems to flow better, I found that the original song had more meaning for the film. The rest of the songs present quite a variety of styles. There are the Gaelic folk songs like The Braes of Balquhidder, serious hymn-like tracks describing the powerful arms of the Wicker Tree, rather explicit and somewhat funny tracks like Trailer Trash Love and The Fruity Song and some pop/gospel in songs like The Magnificat.
The Wicker Tree Soundtrack is just what the doctor ordered as far as horror film musical scores. I did enjoy some of the songs on this album - others I could have done without - but it’s the musical score that will definitely win over the music lover who has become tired of the same old stale tricks electronic trickery used to enhance horror score compositions these days. Hats off to John Scott, a traditionalist at heart who knows just what it takes to create a masterful musical score for a horror film.