1. Main Title (2:46)
2. Finding Rick (1:48)
3. Animal Exodus (3:45)
4. Becky Bleeds (1:15)
5. The Weasel (5:43)
6. The Debate (4:11)
7. Henry Returns to the Cabin (4:22)
8. What are You Up To? (2:09)
9. Henry Meets Owen (2:51)
10. 1-800-Henry (2:08)
11. Curtis and Owen Battle (2:55)
12. Duddits Warns Henry (3:27)
13. Pete and Trish (2:15)
Apperantly Stephen King was so satisfied with the film version of his novel Dreamcatcher that he volunteered to promote the film, giving numerous interviews sharing his opinion on how great, and true to his novel, the film is. The critics and moviegoers haven't been equally impressed. Film versions of Stephen King's more horror oriented novels rarely work. Adaptions of his more down to earth novels usually do, successful films such as The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me being good examples. But Dreamcatcher is not one of those films, as it deals with alien parasites referred to as "Shitweasels", more or less crazy military officers and big government cover ups. And in the middle of it all are four men, played by Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Damian Lewis (from Band of Brothers) and Timothy Oliphant, and their relationship and somewhat supernatural connection with Duddits, played by Donnie Wahlberg.
Many probably expected James Newton Howard to write a large and bombastic orchestral score for this film. I did. But that's not what we got. Dreamcatcher is a creepy horror score, filled with quiet and uneasy underscore interrupted by occasional orchestral outbursts. Howard uses a fairly large orchestra and also adds electronics and choir to the mix. It's a rather typical horror score with large portions of underscore and a couple of exciting action cues, "Henry Returns to the Cabin", for example, which features some aggressive brass and strings, and "Curtis and Owen Battles". The electronics add an interesting touch to the music, and Howard makes use of both eerie samples (for tense underscore) and electronic beats and percussion (for the action), but overall this is a rather bland score. At least on CD.
The lack of a memorable theme is a little disappointing. (Hey, I like themes, ok?) There is a minor, slow theme, which shows up in a couple of cues ("The Weasel" and "Curtis and Owen Battles" for example) performed by low strings, but it's nothing to write home about, unfortunately, and is easy to miss completely.
Horror and suspense scores are often hard to fully appreciate on CD, with no visuals to support the music (or, wait... isn't it supposed to be the other way around?) and Dreamcatcher is no exception. A little disappointing.
For the critical mauling it has received, Dreamcatcher is a curiously well made film, high on good actors (Morgan Freeman), good source material (Stephen King) and a good director and writer (Lawrence Kasdan), but evidently pulp horror is difficult to make transcend its origins, no matter how good the talent. Maybe it was an attempt to improve the credentials of the enterprise by hiring James Newton Howard who did such a good job with The Sixth Sense and Signs. The producers clearly thought he'd provide a sophisticated edge to their horror flick. Howard is certainly the kind of composer who rarely disappoints in underscore terms, but unlike most of his recent efforts, Dreamcatcher isn't nearly so interesting on CD.
I noted in my review of Alan Silvestri's score to Identity that even good composers can become sucked into following the current trend and Howard seems to have fallen into the modern horror score mixture of suspenseful doodling and orchestral jolts. One of the most curious elements is the Main Title, something of an updated take on John Carpenter's inane Halloween theme, but with a bit of contemporary percussion thrown in for good measure. The middle of the album shows a notable increase in quality as the horror gives way to some terrific action in The Weasel and a few exciting, orchestral led moments during The Debate and Henry Returns to the Cabin. However, even these tracks have meandering suspense in between them, so you're left with a handful of great moments, thoughtfully dispersed in amongst music that barely registers.
I'm not sure if a score with a split between great and terrible is more or less difficult to recommend than one which is average, but of even quality. If you have patience to wait for the good moments, Howard doesn't disappoint - he's a better composer than to allow the entire time to go by fruitlessly. However, since a substantial portion could be from any routine, modern horror score, the overall result is disappointing. Not a total washout by any means, but Howard has done better.