Sibling relationships take a turn for the weird in Jacob, the supernatural thriller from Larry Wade Carrell. Jacob dotes on his much younger sister so much, that when tragedy hits his family, he retaliates with a brutal and unrelenting violence. Obviously the film did the trick; earning Carrell 16 worldwide film awards, it received warm critical praise for its dark use of the horror genre. Composer and orchestrator Iain Kelso has penned the film’s score, utilising his knowledge of strings, wind and piano to create a sound which is both sinister and gentle. Developing the music through traditional theme and variation, Kelso’s delivers a score that is “dark, ominous, haunting (and) touching”, according to Carrell.
Opening cue ‘Prologue and Main Title’ is a nice, sweeping introductory cue to the entire soundtrack. Grounded in orchestral sounds, the overall tone is certainly very creepy and haunting. By keeping things on the quieter side, Kelso’s soundtrack is far more suggestive than it would have been had he decided to go big and bold. The main cello theme is both creeping and poignant, capturing the dichotomy of Jacob’s personality. Piano ostinatos carry a more sinister undertone, promising a twist which lies beneath the surface. Kelso resists the urge to transform this cue into a brash, violent number, instead relying on the softer sounds to do the talking.
Despite the heavy nature of the film, Kelso does not forget that it is grounded in a brother-sister relationship. Experimenting with more playful sounds, cue ‘Cycling to the Macleod House’ is utterly cinematic in tone; in the staccato opening, you can feel the sheer joy of the interaction between the characters. Working according to a theme and variation structure, the entire sound is consistently coherent. Whilst this cue is definitively more upbeat than the title track, it migrates here and there into the more sinister melodies present in the rest of the score. Despite the moments of innocence, the film is grounded in something much more insidious and Kelso doesn’t let us forget it.
Kelso’s score is consistently musically rich. Balancing the contrasting elements of Jacob’s personality, his musical tone ebbs and flows, at some points vulnerable, at others, aggressive. Moments such as the string tremolandos in cue ‘And Edith Defends Him’ make it apparent why Kelso’s score received such high critical praise. Kelso is a composer who is aware of the subtle changes which can be made in orchestral scoring, how an instrument can be transformed by a slight shift in notation. Whilst there are necessary sweeps of louder, thrilling numbers, it is never to the detriment of the haunting tone which pervades the majority of the soundtrack. Somehow, Kelso has balanced the quiet with the loud to produce a score which is lasting, haunting and effective.