I can't help but think that some composers for horror films forget they are there to provide music, not just orchestral sound design. Maybe crashing and banging is what the modern horror director seeks, but in purely musical terms, a lot of these horror scores simply don't work and the albums are stupefyingly dull. Just when you thought I was going to launch an assault on Brian Tyler's score for this rather anonymous horror film, I'm pleased to say that Tyler carefully manages to break the trend for truly tedious horror scores. Darkness Falls isn't going to be a classic of Poltergeist or Psycho proportions, but at least it can legitimately be called music and doesn't sound like a group of musicians locked in a darkened room trying to find their instruments.
Things get off to a fine start with the energetic Evil Rises, which does admittedly sound very similar to Tyler's work on The Hunted, but I guess you could put that down to style. Taken on its own terms, it's exuberant and intense scoring, with The Hunted's trait of clean orchestration, welcome relief at a time when action can be a listener swamping experience. There is quite a bit of action in Darkness Falls, certainly more than one might expect; I supposed that it would settle down into endless plinking and suspense (there is a touch of that in the second half), but these moments are fairly brief. The slightly longer passages (most of the tracks are fairly short anyway), such as Lose a Tooth, are generally fairly tuneful in an aimless kind of way. One of the most pleasing is One Kiss, even if the piano motif owes something to Thomas Newman - then again, don't most scores require at least one Thomas Newman moment these days? Synthetic elements are kept to a minimum, but those used are effective, notably the Goldenthal inspired grunge on Der Zylinder.
With The Hunted and Darkness Falls, Tyler demonstrates a skill in writing solid genre scores that don't stray too far from convention, but contain enough in the way of invention and solid orchestration to avoid seeming stale or cliché. At over three quarters of an hour, the album is perhaps a touch on the long side; some of the action starts to sound the same after a while (even if brief outbursts such as We Are Not Safe Here provide the occasional surprise) and as the tracks are short, there isn't a great deal of development. Perhaps Tyler's biggest problem so far is that his music is all technique and no inspiration. It could be argued that for film music, this is ideal, but for a composer, it decreases any chance of standing out and progressing beyond schlocky horror. With more genuine imagination, Tyler could do very well indeed, here's hoping.