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Jacob by Iain Kelso (Review)

posted Aug 12, 2014, 6:34 PM by Kaya Savas

Iain Kelso’s Jacob is not your typical horror score in that it focuses on the characters more so than anything else. Horror scores almost always try to scare you, and I think the composer or the director feels that if the music isn’t scary then the audience won’t be entertained. Here the music pulls you into the chilling world of the characters instead of aiming to scare you. Jacob becomes that rare character-focused score that is able to build a chilling atmosphere, utilize melodies and crafts an uneasy suspense that makes for an absorbing listen. It loses that focus as the score moves along, which unfortunately diminishes its emotional effect, but in the end wraps things up nicely.

Kelso structures the score wonderfully by taking time to introduce us to the characters with a nice prologue and establishing the tone of the score. What struck me most was his use of melodies, which is not something you expect in a horror score. I enjoyed being able to grasp onto something tangible and recognizable. It helped me stay invested in the score once the tone turned from “creepy fairytale” to “dark twisted nightmare”. However, I found myself liking “creepy fairytale” much more. It felt like a lullaby at times, and then the score trades most of that in for standard atmospheric fare. The music can feel like ominous droning in parts that don’t seem to build all that uniquely, but it reaches that effect of bubbling tension. Instead of loud bursts of sounds the score aims at building to loud stretches of space-filling music that completely engulfs you. At times it had the desired effect, but also felt like it was too much sometimes. When the music got really loud it's like a Scooby Doo villain trying really hard to scare and intimidate you, but you can clearly see the mask or zipper on the suit. In the final act we get back some of that melodic structure that opened the score, and it concludes everything nicely.

Jacob is worth a listen if only to hear a new composer’s voice. Iain Kelso does an admirable job crafting a fully-immersive score that is effective for most of the time. I was immediately put under its spell, but slowly it lost me to conventional scoring techniques I’ve heard many times before. The score can be compared to a sandwich with great bread and a so-so middle. The opening slice and closing slice are great, but everything in the middle is a tad bland. The score does its job and everything that it’s asked to do, but the uniqueness of it needed to extend throughout all of it instead of just the opening and closing.