What Still Remains

Musical Score By: Jonathan Beard

Soundtrack Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


               Set twenty-five years after a zombie virus has destroyed civilization as we know it, What Still Remains stars Lulu Antariksa as Anna, a young survivor living in isolation in an old cabin in the woods.  She’s all alone now that her mother has died, so meeting a stranger so close to home comes as quite a shock.  But Peter (Colin O'Donoghue) appears to be safe and kind and he speaks of his community as an oasis.  She decides to travel to his community to see what it’s like.  Peter tells Anna of the Berserkers, men who dress as zombies and wander the trees, searching for victims.  His community actually has one Berserker being held as a prisoner, a monster and abomination if you ask anyone in the group.  But the longer Anna stays in this new community, the more she begins to wonder if the Berserker is the only prisoner…and if he really is the monster after all.

               The musical score of What Still Remains was created by American composer Jonathan Beard.  With two degrees in music composition from Stanford and UCLA, Beard is committed to music education, joining the faculty at UCLA and teaching electronic music composition and music technology at the Herb Alpert School of Music.  Beard has created music for television, film, video games and concert stage.  Some of his credits include work on such notable projects as Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars: Old Republic: Knights of the Fallen Empire, Once Upon a Time (as a guest composer), Frank vs. God and the theatre productions of The Passion of Anne Frank and Driving Miss Daisy.

               The musical score of What Still Remains is a mix of orchestral and electronic sound with music that doesn’t exactly represent the horror genre as we now know it.  Sure, there are some screeching violins here and there, disjointed sounds and blasts of fast-paced music, but for the most part, the What Still Remains Soundtrack plays like the score of a dramatic film and not that of a horror movie.  According to the composer, “In exploring the uncertain world that our characters face, the film unfolds as a complex and engaging psychological thriller, and the score needed to musically reflect that reality. We’re really looking at a Hitchcockian psychological tapestry, dialog scenes where what’s being discussed on the surface is 100% cover for what’s being insinuated below the surface, and the score gets to dance between those two levels…Peter presents a delicious musical opportunity: an intriguing and initially sympathetic character who is ultimately not what he seems. The theme for Peter is built around an unsettling four-note motif that obfuscates major and minor modes becoming more claustrophobic and intense as it progresses.”

               Things start off pretty quickly with Berserker and the Forest Chase, a piece that starts off a bit dark with strange noises, swirling violins and percussion that ultimately gets louder and faster paced before coming to a quiet and somewhat anticlimactic ending.  Then we move into the beautiful strings of Journey to What Still Remains.  There are some subtleties in this track worth mentioning – the cymbal roll that appears to accompany a visual reveal in the film and the bits of disjointed electronic sounds that are rather unsettling to the listener.  You know something is just not right here, but can’t quite put your finger on it.  Anna’s theme is heavy on strings – her sadness, her sense of being alone all interpreted through the rise and fall of the strings.  An example of this appears in Anna's Mother Dies where we are witness to an extreme sadness of string score that eventually is accompanied by a synth track and a rise in crescendo, perhaps speaking to a determination to survive although all appears lost.

               There is a sense of innocence to Anna that utterly contrasts with the members of Peter’s community.  Tracks featuring these moments with Peter’s people are filled with dramatic and dark flourishes.  Peter's Theme begins with a dark rumble, accompanied by lower registry strings, horns and a rather creepy piano piece.  This is one dark character for sure – definitely not what he appears to be on the surface.

               The entire What Still Remains Soundtrack is a study in emotion and drama.  This movie is less a horror film in the sense of zombie disaster and gore and more a psychological horror/thriller which takes on what civilization becomes after the disaster.  The sense of innocence in Anna and the dark, zealot behavior of Peter’s people, mixed with the frenzied danger of the Berserkers is perfectly translated in Jonathan Beard’s score.  I have no doubt that the music he created goes far in enhancing the movie experience.  It also makes for an enjoyable standalone album.  Great job!


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