Musings About Music In Film

31 Days: Wolfen

untitled The late James Horner may have made his name scoring a certain type of horror with James Cameron's Aliens, but he cut his teeth scoring genre flicks under Roger Corman's wing including Humanoids From The Deep and Battle Beyond The Stars. Out of this came Wolfen, a fairly well-budgeted urban horror directed by Michael Wadleigh (Woodstock) and based on a novel by Whitley Strieber (The Hunger). Creative battles caused behind the scene changes, one of which included Craig Safan's score being dropped, with Horner stepping in. Horner's approach was fairly conventional compared to Safan's more avant-garde and atonal music, but is nevertheless an incredibly strong piece of work that showcases the composer's talent for mood and melody.

Horner's music for the wolfen themselves is both vicious and lyrical; the film pulls between portraying them as the archetypal movie monsters and something else, something less simple and more rooted in nature. Indeed, the villain of the film is less the wolfen and more man - the film opens with images of buildings falling from construction detonation, the catalyst for the wolfen's campaign of terror due to the encroachment of man into their territory. The film plays around with the werewolf myth very loosely, with the concept of native American shapeshifting echoing their aeons-old struggle as beingh a race wholesale moved out of their homes - you can't blame them for fighting back. Horner uses these themes to emphasise the natural side of things.

This is beautifully summed up in the climactic shot of the wolfen running free (spoiler: they win) together with Albert Finney's elegant narration: "In arrogance man knows nothing of what exists. There exists on this earth such as we dare not imagine; life as certain as our death, life that will prey on us as surely as we prey on this earth."


Intrada Records released the score officially but their CD is now out of print, however their release of Craig Safan's unused music is still available. -CB

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