When Michael Kamen
agreed to score The Dead Zone
he was working with the group Pink Floyd
and was his first Hollywood film score. At the time, he evidently wasn't able to push for an album release, but after he became more and more popular, hitting a peak with his Die Hard scores, Milan finally produced a release, over a decade after the event. For this, we should be grateful as I think it's always interesting to hear early efforts which often contain the seeds of certain idiosyncrasies that become trademarks in later works.
While a Cronenberg adaptation of a Stephen King story, the film isn't really a horror film, although it contains some slightly nightmarish dream and 2nd site sequences. In the liner notes, Kamen tells of the complaints he received from his neighbours who were frightened by his creepy music as he composed the score on the piano. I'm actually a little surprised as it's not quite that frightening, even with the occasionally whooping orchestral textures in place. In fact, the mood is generally sombre, with an almost doomed romance feel running through the music - even though that isn't really the main thrust of the story. It is almost inevitable that this kind of psychological score will owe something to Bernard Herrmann
, but to his credit, Kamen avoids obvious Herrmann-isms for the most part. Only the occasional muted brass and repeated motifs such as during In the Snow give anything away.
Further to my earlier comments, the seeds of more well known Kamen trademarks are actually somewhat difficult to spot. The film being in an atypical genre for Kamen means that only occasionally do some of his better known orchestral effects become more obvious. As it was for Kamen's neighbours, the music is a little difficult to enjoy on its own. While undeniably well wrought and certainly shows much of the promise Kamen later revealed, this kind of brooding score doesn't really lend itself to repeated listening, although for Kamen fans it is a work that is well worth seeking out.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad