Many people will probably think that BIG BAD WOLVES is a horror movie that involves werewolves when they see the title, well they could not be more wrong, ok it is a horror thriller, but it does not involve wolves, well not the fur covered ones that howl at the moon that we all know anyway. It is a movie that is filled with numerous twists and turns and is not only full of tension and the odd (as in nasty) bit of violence but also has a scattering of dark comedy spread throughout it. In essence it is a revenge movie, but the Directors of the film say it works on two levels in that department, as revenge is the underlying motive within the movie and also that it is a film aimed at getting revenge on parents who have all at some time scared the living daylights out of their kids with tales of wolves in sheep’s clothing, when what they are really getting over to the children is the real danger of Paedophiles. This Israeli production centres on a police investigation into a child murderer, the authorities apparently have their prime suspect in custody but they lack the correct evidence to convict him and he will not confess, frustrated at this they just decide to beat him up and unfortunately for one police officer it is caught on camera and ends up being shown on You Tube, which leads to the detective involved being suspended and having his badge taken from him. The detective played by Lior Ashkenazi decides to start his own investigation and joins forces with one of the murdered children’s Father Gidi, who is played by Tzachi Grad, his daughter in the movie is murdered and be-headed but the head is taken from the scene by the murderer. Together they capture the supposed killer Eli and imprison him in a sound proofed basement in Gidi’s house, where they set about torturing him with various household utensils and other weapons that inflict pain. Although it sounds like a heavy and really macabre plot it also contains a number of one liner’s and satirical remarks which are both silly and funny and delivered with wonderful timing and expression. The duo’s plan to extract a confession from the suspected killer is interrupted by various phone calls, which are more than often from Gidi’s Mother checking on her 40 plus son with offers of chicken soup etc. One would think it would be hard to get laughs out of this situation, but they certainly do and these do take the edge off the matter in hand momentarily. In the end the detective begins to be convinced that the prisoner is actually telling the truth, and together they make an alliance against Gidi, who has become obsessed which punishing Eli for a murder even though he may not have committed it, the Father wants revenge and at this stage he is not worried who he vents his anger or aggression upon. The detective and the suspect then have to plan a way to escape from him. The movie received an outstanding 11 Israeli academy award nominations including for best original score. The music for BIG BAD WOLVES is the work of composer Frank Ilfman
, who’s name may not be a familiar one to you, he worked on the music for MERCANARIES, THE FERRYMAN and NEMESIS GAME, his soundtrack for BIG BAD WOLVES is in a word OUTSTANDING, it is an accomplished and also a polished and finely tuned work that is powerful and at the same time hauntingly passionate with richly dark and uneasy sounding textures and attributes that tantalise and tease the listener. The composer provides us with a lingering but subdued central theme on which he builds the remainder of his score, his dark and superbly strong musical passages evoked memories of the style of the late Woljeich Kilar for me personally, driving and at times romantically slanted sounding strings supported by percussion and almost growling woods which all combine and lend themselves easily and fully to the shady, foreboding horror and humour of the subject matter supporting and enhancing the proceedings wonderfully. The composer has successfully created a masterful and sturdy musical punctuation for the storyline and also underlines dramatic moments perfectly. Ilfman has produced a delightfully ominous and intensely fulsome sounding work which very cleverly augments the movie and assists in it dramatic impact, he builds anxiety marvellously by employing layers of taut musical passages and mixes these with a sense of urgency to ultimately relay a nervous but at the same time near wistful sounding atmosphere which at times brings forth a harrowing, edge of the seat musical experience that has the ability to work both in the context of the film and away from it. The Compact Disc opens with BIG BAD WOLVES;MAIN THEME, which commences with the string section introducing an atmosphere that is ominous and indeed dark, this soon alters to a sinister and apprehensive sound achieved again by the string section with the composer adding a gentle chime which sounds almost childlike. This too soon evaporates and we are returned to a more forceful and dramatic arrangement of the central theme from the score, which slowly builds into a malevolent sounding piece, strident strings acting as a background as more strings carry the theme supported by the use of brass and percussion, this is an effective and menacing opening to the score and establishes the core theme which is a six note motif.
This returns in track number 2, OPENING TITLES, but is more profound and given a greater and more expanded work out, enabling the listener to fully savour and appreciate this simple but affecting composition, strings are the main instrumentation interspersed and punctuated by woodwind, and it is woodwind that takes the theme from the strings momentarily to establish it then strings return and play in unison with the woodwind, supported by cello and piano that adds a certain melancholy to events, again the composition slowly builds with strings giving it depth and a slightly luxurious but hesitant tone, the cue reaches its conclusion with a calming solo piano, but even this brief respite is given a slightly threatening feel by the use of a violin bow on a bike wheel, pitch down, with FX so the composer told me. It more or less stalks the soothing piano turning the near calming performance into something more sinister.
Track number 3, MARCH, is a thunderous and powerful piece, and I have to mention once again Woljeich Kilar, as this reminded me of some of his music for DRACULA, it is imposing and dynamic with martial like percussion setting down the pace in the opening throws of the cue supported by vigorous strings and low woods which introduce the central theme, the percussion comes to an abrupt halt and strings segue into the equation becoming prominent, the percussion rising at strategic moments to create a sense of drama. The remainder of the score is in a similar vein, but of course the re-occurring theme is arranged and orchestrated differently as the composer serves us up a veritable smorgasbord of infectious and richly shadowy music, that will delight any film music fan because although it is largely action driven it has real heart to it. I am also impressed by the composer’s use of some driving and inventive sounding percussive elements that do indeed at times catapult the music along at break neck speed and create lively and imposing support. Frank Ilfman
has in my opinion written a score that is a luxuriant as far as music for horror movies is concerned, it is an interesting and entertaining work, superbly written, meticulously orchestrated and performed to perfection by the London Metropolitan
Orchestra, please go and buy this, you will I promise not regret it.
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light