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Section Header
The Frighteners
Composed and Produced by:
Danny Elfman

Conducted by:
Artie Kane

Orchestrated by:
Steve Bartek
Mark McKenzie
Edgardo Simone

MCA Records

Release Date:
July 16th, 1996

Also See:
Mars Attacks!

Audio Clips:
4. Victim #38 (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

8. Time (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

11. Patty Attack (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

13. Doom (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

Regular U.S. release, but out of print within ten years.


The Frighteners

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Buy it... only if you are endlessly enamored by the early horror styles of Danny Elfman's career, including the excerpts you've heard from Scrooged.

Avoid it... if you expect to hear any of the melodramatic themes, cohesive constructs, or harmonic structures of Elfman's early works.

The Frighteners: (Danny Elfman) Several years before his adventures with The Lord of the Rings, director Peter Jackson brought the campy ghost story of The Frighteners to the big screen. The 1996 film starred Michael J. Fox as a person who could see and talk to ghosts, and thus, the production was rich for its time in the amount of CGI effects generously provided for the audience. As to be expected, The Frighteners, despite its considerable comedy in dark places, is a horror film. In any incarnation, though, it was dead on arrival at the box office. For Jackson, it would be the final venture that he would direct before diving into the three film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, and his sparse directorial output before The Frighteners often utilized the music of Peter Dasent. His hiring of composer Danny Elfman for the project was not an obvious choice, but a well grounded one. The composer was no stranger to the horror genre, especially with projects that had similarly suspect popular appeal (such as Darkman and Nightbreed). These films allowed Elfman the ability to fully unleash the darker side of his talents while inserting brooding, melancholy themes at his leisure (something all his fans know he loved to do at the time). With The Frighteners, you get the same basic formula of Elfman's previous horror writing, but without the same trailblazing spirit that you heard during the inspired moments of those previous scores. With similarities in subject matter, The Frighteners is handled with some of the same combination of horror and absurdity as Scrooged, which was one of Elfman's earliest orchestral efforts. Like Scrooged, the score for The Frighteners establishes a mock horror style and occasionally interrupts it with a touch of comedy flair. Unfortunately, by 1996, this sound from Elfman was becoming repetitive, if not downright old and overused, and thus, The Frighteners suffers from the lack of originality or distinct character with which to recall it when pondering Elfman's career. Compared to nearly all of Elfman's other works, this entry is completely forgettable.

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If you study each of the elements by themselves, Elfman's construction of the music for The Frighteners is by no means repulsive or inadequate. Individual elements excel. The strings quiver and tear in Elfman's usual, frenetic fashion. The brass explode with disjointed motifs of very complex performance. A light, female choir dances with troubled spirit throughout the effort. Specialty percussion instruments highlight the work of Elfman's usual and interesting partners in orchestration. A harpsichord, several chimes, tambourines, a flourishing harp, and, most importantly, the use of a tolling bell effect all signify that death is near. An organ adds the necessary religious aspect to the mix. The bass bassoons are given their typical, deep, and bloated performances. The string section is often led by a single violin or viola performing a wicked (if not nasty) solo rhythm, which is another trademark of Elfman's earlier years. If you are seeing a pattern here, then you'll recognize that it's one of repetition in Elfman's adaptation of his own previous styles (if not exact material when you consider the underlying structures). If The Frighteners had debuted in 1988, then it would be able to carry much more critical success with it, because by 1996, every element of its construct was becoming tiresome in Elfman's career. Some aspects of his music were starting to chang, however, and mostly towards the disjointed end of the scale. The light female choir used for The Frighteners, whether performing whole notes or single bursts in rapid succession, no longer performed in harmonious counterpoint to whatever thematic development Elfman was attempting to create. Such a technique would become even more obvious in Mars Attacks!, by which time Elfman's use of that kind of choir became known for its comedic value rather than an its awe or fear inspiring nature. With the composer's previous ideas for the genre thrust together as a horror score package, The Frighteners is correctly identified by many mainstream listeners as lacking much cohesion or singular creativity. Fans will likely overlook this stumble by Elfman, although it should be noted that the commercial album (complete with the mellow end credits song) doesn't do the music much justice, missing considerable material from lengthy sections of the score. * Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Danny Elfman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.2 (in 65 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.24 (in 118,991 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.91 Stars
Smart Average: 2.91 Stars*
***** 65 
**** 52 
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* 72 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
  gramuel -- 11/5/06 (11:23 a.m.)
   Expanded score tracklist
  Jackal -- 10/26/05 (11:19 p.m.)
   Re: For the record
  Untamed Aggression -- 11/12/03 (5:09 p.m.)
   For the record
  markpnz -- 11/9/03 (7:27 a.m.)
   Re: This is interesting
  Untamed Aggression -- 11/7/03 (4:54 p.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 41:14

• 1. Intro/Titles (5:43)
• 2. The Lads (2:00)
• 3. Poltergeists (2:05)
• 4. Victim #38 (1:52)
• 5. Who's Next? (1:39)
• 6. The Garden (3:08)
• 7. Chilly (1:29)
• 8. Time (4:41)
• 9. Patty's Place (2:12)
• 10. Flashbacks (1:07)
• 11. Patty Attack (3:04)
• 12. Frank's Wife (0:50)
• 13. Doom (3:08)
• 14. Heaven (1:46)
• 15. Don't Fear the Reaper* (5:46)

* written by Donald Roeser/performed by The Mutton Birds

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Frighteners are Copyright © 1996, MCA Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 9/9/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.