Soundtrack Review: Bear McCreary’s Eerie Music for THE FOREST

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Bear McCreary’s music for THE FOREST is terrifyingly good.

Composer Bear McCreary is best known for his work on television, primarily his atmospheric, rural and melancholy music for TV’s hit series THE WALKING DEAD. But here, with his layered, meticulously orchestrated soundscape for director Jason Zada’s eerie supernatural horror film THE FOREST, he proves himself to be one of the emerging masters. And while the film it supports is problematic in that it doesn’t go far enough into the phantasmagorical surrealism it dabbles in, McCreary’s horrifying music goes all the way.

From the main title cue, we feel as though we are entering an uncanny world. In the film, Natalie Dormer’s Sara ventures to Japan to find her missing twin sister Jess (also played by Dormer), who has gone missing in the notorious “Suicide Forest” at the base of Mt. Fuji. McCreary’s theme plays like an overture, hinting at the mystery that sets the film in motion, using strings and synths, before gradually drawing in a haunting, chanting Japanese schoolgirl choir (apparently singing a Japanese traffic light jingle in slow motion!). The fly in the ointment is that the cue doesn’t follow through with the build, instead building to a frenzy before subsiding, much like McCreary’s THE WALKING DEAD theme.

Luckily the effective elements of that theme expand and repeat throughout the rest of the album’s tracks in surprising and frightening ways.

“Journey to Aokighara” is an especially effective cue, utilizing escalating and descending strings, a la Bernard Herrmann, milking suspense from benign images of Dormer simply walking down gravel roads. Evocative, suspenseful stuff.

The highlight of the soundtrack is the track “Alone in the Cave”, a delirious and lengthy wave of almost psychedelic grandeur, with backwards tape loops smashing against strings and authentic, traditional Japanese percussion courtesy of noted musician Hiromitsu Nishikawa, who was able to collaborate with McCreary via internet from Japan to LA. What an amazing world we live in, truly…

McCreary’s immaculate score is now available to purchase via the label Sparks and Shadows here and you can visit his own personal site here.

THE FOREST opens on January 8th. Circle back here on Friday for our review.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi1wU872I-I