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Halloween H20 (Portrait of Terror)
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, and Produced by:
John Ottman

Original Theme by:
John Carpenter

Co-Orchestrated and Co-Conducted by:
Damon Intrabarolo
Frank Macchia

Co-Orchestrated and Vocals by:
Deborah Lurie

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
October 20th, 1998

Also See:
Snow White: A Tale of Terror
The Usual Suspects
House of Wax
Hide and Seek

Audio Clips:
1. Main Title (0:35):
WMA (222K)  MP3 (277K)
Real Audio (172K)

4. Advice (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

10. Letting Go (0:32):
WMA (204K)  MP3 (251K)
Real Audio (156K)

17. Farewell, Michael (0:27):
WMA (177K)  MP3 (218K)
Real Audio (136K)

Regular U.S. release.


Halloween H20 (Portrait of Terror)
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Buy it... if you're a fan of the Halloween franchise and want to hear the superior original score intended to be heard in the seventh film.

Avoid it... if you're accustomed to the level of orchestral and thematic creativity that John Ottman displayed in Usual Suspects and Incognito.

Halloween H20: (John Ottman) Oh, the woes of a brainless studio. The only reason this, the seventh entry of the Halloween series, came to be was due to the involvement of original writer Kevin Williamson and star Jamie Lee Curtis, resurrecting a franchise that had turned hopelessly stupid and giving it what was thought to be, at the time, a proper burial. The film is arguably the most sensible since John Carpenter's original, and Miramax was determined to offer it to audiences with convincing sincerity. The events of the film are a predictable tribute to the original, though a few more humanizing elements of the battle between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are explored. In the end, a final confrontation between an axe-wielding Curtis and her masked opponent is, of course, inevitable. One aspect of Miramax's attempt to make Halloween H20 into a serious venture was the hiring of rising horror composer John Ottman to beef up Carpenter's original theme and give the franchise its first intelligent score of significant size. Despite Ottman's efforts to do just that, the music heard in the film was a studio-mandated, rearranged mess. A few major film reviewers commented that they would have preferred to have heard more variations on Carpenter's theme rather than the generic slasher style of music actually used in much of the film. While some, like respected reviewer James Berardinelli, blamed Ottman for this music, it was actually Marco Beltrami that deserved the mention. Miramax moved up the release date of the film and claimed that they did not have time to show the film to test audiences with Ottman's original music. Thus, a final soundtrack including only parts of Ottman's work and lengthy pieces of Beltrami's temp-tracked scores for Scream and Mimic was used and eventually preferred by the studio to such an extent that they flew in Beltrami to write synthetic bridges between the pieces of his music and Ottman's original material. Obviously, the tracking of Beltrami's music into the film was not a success, and any observation of both the film and Ottman's complete score will reveal Miramax's stupidity in the post-production management of the endeavor.

The entire crew, interestingly, had been satisfied with Ottman's work. Only the studio objected. To make matters worse, Miramax complicated the possibility of a commercial album release of the score as well. Fifty minutes of the score was eventually released under the name "Portrait of Terror" by Varèse Sarabande, vindicating Ottman for what was obviously a frustrating experience on the production team. Ottman's intent had been to arrange Carpenter's famous piano theme into an orchestral powerhouse, filling the time in between with clever symphonic and synthetic textures featuring electronic vocalizations and even a theme for Laurie Strode herself. While the sparse piano and synthesizer renderings by Carpenter have always been considered to a great asset to the eerie atmosphere of the original film in the franchise, the seventh film deserved a maturation of sound that Ottman was able to very well provide. He indeed uses Carpenter's theme in full three or four times, with two knockout performances that open with the expected solo piano and eventually build to menacing ensemble depth (in "Main Title" and "Final Confrontation"). The incredibly powerful bass thumps in these performances, like a bizarre combination of an anvil and drum pad, offer an extremely sinister atmosphere. Metallic clangs mix with short bursts of brass and sampled choir over a consistently resonating electric bass to provide an enjoyably creepy effect. Pieces of the theme are intelligently incorporated into the rest of the score, as is the franchise-defining piano. The theme for Laurie is integrated directly into the titles and expanded upon throughout the work, though it's not as obvious as it could (or perhaps should) have been. Guaranteed to bring a smile to any film score collector's face is the direct quote from Bernard Herrmann's Psycho in the "Advice" cue, accompanying actress Janet Leigh's much hyped cameo. The remainder of the score is mostly defined by Ottman's usual horror textures, much of it indistinguishable from parts of the generic horror scores he would produce in following years.

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Inevitably, with the slasher/horror genre comes the orchestral blasts of surprise and the extended sequences of quivering, stalking underscore, and at this task, Ottman's imagination is somewhat limited by the confines of that genre. Pieces of Snow White: Tale of Terror occasionally peek through in the brief lyrical flow of some of the cues. Individual, devilishly creative moments are littered throughout the work, though, including Deborah Lurie's vocals in "Rest Stop," the whispering of a young girl's voice saying "mommy, mommy" in "Disposal," the contemporary pop rhythm that dissolves into an airy, electronically vocal fantasy cue, and the last cue, which provides a falsely comforting finale before the necessary slashing in the final 20 seconds. Overall, the adaptations of Carpenter's theme are definitely the highlight of this score, and unfortunately, these were largely removed from the film by Miramax. There are hints of the orchestral creativity of Usual Suspects and Incognito to be heard a times, but never in coherent or lengthy enough forms to recommend this score along with those earlier classics. Is it superior to Beltrami's music for Scream and Mimic that was settled upon at the last minute? Absolutely, though those horror scores (despite loyalty from Beltrami collectors) weren't particularly very good to begin with. As an album, "Portrait of Terror" functions better as a promotional tool for the composer and a curiosity for his fans, and the "Main Title" cue would be a welcome addition to any compilation of great horror theme adaptations. With the Beltrami scores already released, there was no possibility of a score album for Halloween H20 that is loyal to the actual music heard in the final cut. Unfortunately for Ottman, the controversy surrounding Halloween H20 came just when he was already having problems with the producers of Cruel Intentions. After writing a classical and edgy "manipulation" score to suit the requests for that film, he was then asked to change it to the hip-hop score that would also be rejected and ultimately replaced. Portions of that score were also released by Varèse Sarabande, and, like "Portrait of Terror," that album serves as a reminder that studios often have no musical intelligence whatsoever. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Ottman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.15 (in 34 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 2.96 (in 18,759 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.06 Stars
Smart Average: 3.13 Stars*
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 50:51

• 1. Main Title (4:26)
• 2. Laurie (2:47)
• 3. Narrow Escape (1:57)
• 4. Advice (1:38)
• 5. Rest Stop (1:41)
• 6. Disposal (3:08)
• 7. The Evening Begins (2:17)
• 8. Seventeen (5:11)
• 9. Face to Face (6:02)
• 10. Letting Go (1:02)
• 11. Here's Company (4:14)
• 12. Sonata for Molly (2:01)
• 13. Death of a Nurse (3:56)
• 14. Final Confrontation (4:34)
• 15. He's Dead (1:52)
• 16. Road Trip (2:03)
• 17. Farewell, Michael (2:55)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes extensive credits and several notes written by Ottman's friends and colleagues about his previous works.

  All artwork and sound clips from Halloween H20 (Portrait of Terror) are Copyright © 1998, Varèse Sarabande. 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 10/26/98 and last updated 3/30/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.