Along with Thomas Newman, Marco Beltrami and the like, John Ottman is considered one of the brightest hopes of modern film music and I find that just a little worrying. These composers all have had their good days, but compared to the better efforts by anyone from Rozsa to Goldsmith, they start to seem insignificant. I don't know what it is about some of these highly appreciated gentlemen, much of the time I honestly don't hear what makes their music so special. Unfortunately, John Ottman's popularity is one I find most hard to comprehend. He is an extremely capable composer, but nothing really jumps out at me, even in his most highly regarded works.
Cruel Intentions is another remake of Dangerous Liaisons (or more correctly, Les Liaisons Dangereuses), but featuring contemporary, bratty, rich teenagers. I can't say I was hugely inspired, but it did feature an attractive cast and some acerbic and cutting word play. For whatever reason, John Ottman's score was replaced (by Michael Kamen's associate/protégé Edward Shearmur) and I must admit I don't understand why. The simmering, techno-lite approach seems entirely appropriate and is occasionally quite striking and would have fitted the film like a glove. Evidently the score was mainly performed by Ottman synthetically, but the sampled sounds, instruments and percussion aren't obviously synthetic and work well together to form a modern, cool atmospheric score. There are no dominating main themes, but is mainly built up around shorter ideas and samples. Had it featured on its own, I'd probably have awarded a good, but unexceptional 3, however the remaining items are more interesting.
The album is thoughtfully rounded out by a selection of released and unreleased (at least officially) suites from other Ottman scores. Fantasy Island was apparently a TV mini series (the promo album to which I think I have somewhere!) and this suite is book ended by the strange main theme. Built around short hopping phrases, I was going to call it almost a calypso, but I'm not even sure that's remotely correct, still it's an entertaining selection of the best parts of the score. Incognito is about forging a 'lost' Rembrandt or some such nonsense. The original session tapes apparently featured clicks and so the score album had them removed, but at other detriment to the sound quality, but the original damaged tracks are featured here - not that you'd notice there was anything wrong. These selections are the highlight of the album, although curiously placed separately rather than in a longer suite. All are really quite wonderful orchestral tracks that really are stand out, particularly the album finale, The Creation with its mock Baroque stylings.
Ottman's rejected Halloween H20 was not a score I much cared for and the creepy titles featured here, do little to improve my view. Snow White: A Tale of Terror is another moody strings led piece that doesn't ever quite get going. The Cable Guy starts with a Poltergeist inspired children's choir, but moves into more typical orchestral comedy music - fun, but undemanding. Apt Pupil is another slow burn horror title that functions as a kind of evil waltz, while Lake Placid is music from a film about a giant crocodile. Fun all the same though.
Like the aforementioned Marco Beltrami and unlike the aforementioned Thomas Newman, Ottman's musical personality isn't entirely cemented with this album. There are a few mannerisms that give it a running personality, but not nearly as strong as Newman (for example). That having been said, he is as skilled in the studio with a synthesizer as he is with an orchestra and can use both to create strong moods which still contain sufficient melodic interest. I suspect I will remain frustrated by Ottman, especially if (like Beltrami) he continues being attached to sub Scream spin off slashers where the novelty of Beltrami's successful original is wearing dangerously thin. However, a good selection with more than sufficient interest and probably a must for any keen Ottman fan.