A Walk Among The Tombstones is a generic crime mystery executed in a really great stylistic fashion. I think any film can overcome genre archetypes if they add a somewhat unique approach to it. Carlos Rafael Rivera does just that. He doesn’t do a generic brooding thriller score, instead he approaches it with a completely unique voice. The film blends the line between noir and mystery with just the slightest haunted touch.
The one thing that will jump out at listeners is the instrumentation and style. The trickling and plucking characteristics of the score create curiosity, but not the kind where you want to find out what’s going on. It’s more of the cautious type of curiosity, like something is beginning to engulf me and I want to know what it is. Some may liken the soundscape to a Danny Elfman/Tim Burton score, but I think that waltz-like bounce with shimmering strings and hollow vocals chills the score just right. The central motif echoes quite consistently through the whole narrative, and makes it extremely tangible even if the music never does anything really big. The score is definitely an exercise in restraint, and here it works very well. The music builds tone and atmosphere with ease, and it keeps you invested the whole way through. If the score has any drawbacks it’s a lack of emotional investment and a sense of progression. The score moves along at a fixed pace, but when the climax comes it doesn’t really feel like it was built up to it. We arrive at the climax, and before we know it everything wraps up with no real emotional payout. We definitely feel we are heading into darkness, but the darkness kind of springs up out of nowhere. That doesn’t detract from a score that successfully dodges cliches to craft a very engrossing crime mystery.
Carlos Rafael Rivera demonstrates an excellent and unique style with his first feature score. The music’s approach and execution are right on the money for this narrative, and I was wrapped up in this tale the whole way through. While I enjoyed being immersed in this score, I never felt a big emotional investment. It was akin to sitting around a campfire and being told a ghost story almost, or a creepy stroll through a haunted mansion. There is an appropriate ghostly quality to this score, and I think that’s what makes it unique. This is a definite must-listen despite the shortcomings. Rivera is a new composer who manages to do something fresh with his first score instead of recycle archetypes and cliches.
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