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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)





HOSTEL (2005)

Music composed and produced by Nathan Barr.

23 Tracks (Playing Time = 43:13)

Orchestrations by Penka Kouneva and Karen Guthery. Performed by the Prague Filmharmonic Orchestra conducted by Allan Wilson. Recorded at CNSO Studios, Prague, Czech Republic. Score recorded and mixed by Michael Farrow. Music edited by Brian Richards.

Varese Sarabande 302 066 710 2

Rating: ***


HOSTEL appeared at a couple of film festivals last year before receiving a release at the beginning of 2006. Eli Roth’s gorefest, boosted by the attachment “Quentin Tarrantino presents,” did not do horribly when you realize the film had a budget under $5 million and within a month had taken in almost 10 times that amount in the US alone. Nathan Barr’s score may turn out, like so many other scores for B-films, to be the best thing about this movie in the long run. Written for a large orchestra along with the occasional wordless vocal, Barr’s score is a mixture of darkness and light that proves to be quite captivating on its own.

The disc opens with the end credits “Suite” which was composed specifically to flesh out Barr’s thematic idea that appears briefly in the track “The Village.” In his brief note, Barr comments that his theme took its inspiration from Bedrich Smetana’s “Ma Vlast.” But, the churning musical ideas that kick off the track owe a great deal to Bernard Herrmann’s score for PSYCHO. His other acknowledged homage is George Delerue and one can hear that in some of the almost magical and crystal-clear scoring that provides contrast to the darker passages. There are a few action sequences which additionally help to also propel the music forward (like in “Smokestack”). What I found most interesting though was that though there was plenty of horror-music atmospherics it never really felt that way. It felt the way a Herrmann score feels when it seeps under your skin and creeps you out or chills you. That is quite a feat to have accomplished when it would have been far easier to slash and run. Scoring choices also lend their own bizarre quality along the way. It is what elevates tracks like “Mr. Serious American” above generic horror music In this case, it sounds like a Goldenthal nightmare minus screaming brass licks (Barr’s brass are more traditionally scored). “Dreams” lets us to hear a more extended edited underscore which builds into a terrifying frenzy. Barr adeptly builds these sequences by a gradual layering of musical textures and ostinati.

I had a chance to hear Barr’s work on the inferior DUKES OF HAZZARD film and also his contributions to Cabin Fever. Both showed off his skills as a consummate musician. Here we get a chance to glimpse the early version of a style that has plenty of time to mature. If you have not had a chance to hear his music, this score makes for a fine start and one of the first guilty pleasure surprises of the year.


-- Steven A. Kennedy, 28 March, 2006

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