The Haunting was a terrible, awful and generally risible film about insomniacs, some bloke trying to help them, but really trying to test their reactions to fear. Oh, and the house is haunted because, 'some houses are born bad' - er, right, yes. Even worse, it was a remake of a pretty scary and moodily atmospheric film by Robert Wise (yes, the Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Sound of Music bloke). This effects laden remake wasn't really scary, no, it wasn't scary at all. As someone who finds anything rated higher than a PG scary, I was surprised to realise how lame the attempt to frighten this made. I guess the final sections had some decent action scenes, but these were undoubtedly enhanced by Jerry Goldsmith's varied and very good score. Jerry writes for films that are undeserving, but this was more undeserving than most. Opening with the Carousel, becuase all horror scores have to have a carousel theme, this actually relates to a room with mirrors that revolves and seemed to be (like many things in the house) there because it looked good as production designs. I assume that there is some kind of synth at work which is made to sound like a small pipe organ. This then blends into what could be deemed the main theme, a string laden melody that starts high and descends to quite creepy effect.
I have to say that all the vaguely frighening music in the film must have been mixed too low to be effective; Terror in Bed seems a lot more creepy and intense than I recall the scene being. There are some low brass sonorities which play against a flickering synth figure, the occasional dissonent violin passage and a deep drum. This track in particular highlights the very good recording of this score which booms and thunders impressively (recorded on the new Newman Scoring Stage at Fox). The other more action orientated sections include the terrific Finally Home which was the only moment when I felt any tension, mainly due to the thrilling chase music that Jerry provided. Quieter interludes are provided in such moments as Curly Hair and The Curtains, two moments when the lead female are contacted by the spirits of dead children, or something. The Curtains contains some charming flute work over an undulating string bed as well as a delightful use of harp and piano together (which occasionally suggests the theme from Star Trek: Insurrection). Curly Hair starts off very creepy with portamento descending strings, but the warm flute theme returns to end on a more uplifting note.
This is by no means a classic Goldsmith score, but it makes for a superior horror score where subtlety isn't a total pre-requisite, but it is never annoyingly over the top. It also doesn't dwell on using extreme dissonence or hair raising choirs, but achieves its mood using extremely good orchestration and by just being very well written. It's not one of Goldsmith's more terrifying concoctions, the quieter sections can be quite unnerving but always seem to resolve and the tension is disappated. The action cues are some of Jerry's more original ones recently and when at full tilt become intense and brilliantly crafted. I think that the fun and exciting score to The Mummy and the exciting, but sometimes gloomy score to 13th Warrior have overshadowed The Haunting, but in many ways this perhaps more of an original effort and once again proves that Jerry can turn his hand to any type of film of any quality and come up trumps.