Dark Shadows (Danny Elfman)

Final Musings: Dark Shadows is an effective combination of the previously established sounds for Sleepy Hollow and The Wolfman. The level of thought put into this score is rather admirable with well executed orchestrations and themes. But the lack of accessibility in the harsh electronic effects and the overbearing dissonance play to the score’s downfall. Nonetheless, with repeated listens, this score can offer a rewarding experience.

Dark Shadows is definitely one of the stranger things to have aired on daytime television back in the 60s. The gothic soap opera made quite the impression on its cult following with its bizarre supernatural elements and the memorable character of the 200 year-old vampire Barnabas Collins. Director Tim Burton was quite the fan himself so it wasn’t long before he would take premise under his wing for his own take on it. As with most Burton films, the film features great visuals and top-notch acting. But where the film really fails is the schizophrenic nature of the storyline and direction. Dark Shadows often varies between gothic fantasy, dark horror and outright comedy as it knows very little about what it wants to be. Luckily, Burton’s long time collaborator, Danny Elfman didn’t partake in this crisis. The composer wisely chose to keep the film grounded by scoring it as a straightforward Burton film of the horror fantasy genre. The resulting product is a rather effective score with far more direction than the film itself.

Dark Shadows has a rather well crafted score that has a fair amount of thought put into it. Firstly, it’s pretty clear that Elfman wanted to provide the movie with a dramatic musical atmosphere akin to Robert Cobert’s own work for the source material. Consequently, at several moments the score effectively emulates the sound of a soap opera, and in this regard, the orchestrations are executed with exquisite precision. The alto flute is used capably as a throwback to its popular status in the early 70s. It’s often utilized with echoing descending phrases as heard consistently throughout the work (developed in cues like “More the End?”).To go on, Elfman also expertly uses various electronic effects (often abrasive in nature) that include slurring electronic pitches and cackling sound effects to reflect the outlandish nature of this particular soap. The intention could not be clearer in moments like 1:04 in “The End?” (the bass in enhanced in a menacing melodramatic fashion so common in many of these melodramas) or 0:24 in “Barnabas Comes Home”. There are also other little nods like the emphasis on the vibraphones. And so its hard to deny that attention to detail in such retrospect is quite admirable. Read the rest of this entry »