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The Haunting In Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia by Michael Wandmacher (Review)

posted Jun 12, 2013, 6:00 PM by christian@filmmusicmedia.com

Up until now, my only personal introduction to the music of Michael Wandmacher was the diminutive but summarily effective score to 2008’s Train. Though also known for 2005’s Cry_Wolf, Wandmacher has since garnered critical and fan acclaim for 2009’s My Bloody Valentine 3D and 2011’s Drive Angry 3D. With Ghosts of Georgia, this year’s sequel to 2009’s original Haunting in Connecticut film, Wandmacher has assumed the role of composer succeeding Robert Kral, whose music for the first film seemed quizzically overlooked. Wandmacher does an exemplary job paying homage to The Haunting in Connecticut’s foundation, but unfortunately isn’t really able to add anything that specifically carves out a particular niche for himself, despite a number of high points in the material.

In a word, Ghosts of Georgia’s primary sound can be described as unsettling. Very similar to Kral’s score for the original movie, Wandmacher has approached its sequel with music akin to that of Christopher Young’s stellar work on 2012’s Sinister, chock-full of ambient effects, bursts of static and grainy scratching noises highlighted by orchestral sequences. However, Ghosts of Georgia’s ability to instill fear in the listener doesn’t quite match the sheer power of Sinister, and its orchestral illustration pales in comparison to the lush melodicism of such recent wondrous scores as Roque Banos’s Evil Dead. Ghosts of Georgia does appear to contain all musical cues from the film, though, and is a colossal collection at sixty-three scene-based tracks totaling eighty-one minutes in duration. As a consequence, the overall effect of many of the tracks is diminished, as a majority of them are too short to be immersible, just barely introducing a couple of muted tones before fading out.

Wandmacher’s talent is on obvious display though, especially in the gentler melodic pieces like “A Good Dream” and the acoustic/string interplay of “The New House” and “Chief.” He also demonstrates his natural skill in urgent, heart-stopping sounds with early tracks such as “Ghost in the Bushes,” “The Swinging Tree,” and “Drowned.” Stunning piano work is also admirably present; take “Not a Road,” for example, with its despondent piano melody preceded by layered string work, “200 Years,” where the sparse piano tune barely peeks out from under an odd howling effect, or “Devil Looks Like a Gentleman,” where soft, velvety strings transition to ever-so-slight percussion mixed with piano flourish.

On the second half of the score album, Wandmacher’s able to expand the foundation of his sound due to a few longer track lengths and the culmination of the film’s narrative. On one of the album’s best tunes, “What Happened Here,” a plodding pace is accentuated by meditative string work weaving in and out of the percussion and electronic noise effects, and with “Joyce’s Vision” and the much more truncated “Dream State,” further comparisons to Young’s Sinister can be drawn, as sheets of feedback, spiraling horns, and dissonant harsh effects come to the fore. Wandmacher’s predilection for layering becomes apparent in “A Gift,” which briefly brings to mind the low-tuned string work of Hans Zimmer’s The Ring before yielding one of the score’s truly heartfelt string melodies, before melting to the ambient and noise juxtaposition of “A Warning.” Calming emphasis is given a brief respite between “The Approach” and “The Escape,” with the former’s undulating din of skittish and hollow percussion and the latter’s harrowing, industrial-based vortex of sound incorporating wavering strings and metallic, cold drum strikes. Two of the score’s longest tracks close out the album; first “The Truth,” which enters James Newton Howard / Alan Silvestri territory with prominent and melancholic cello driving a humbled bass and horn assembly, showcasing Wandmacher’s abilities with more emotive and thematic material. “Never Again” ends the score, combining the more reserved, tactile sounds of the acoustic guitar on display in prior tracks “The New House” and “Chief” with electronic-tinged string sequences continued from “The Truth.”

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia is a decent score, but it’s almost as if Michael Wandmacher is reluctant to display more bombastic aplomb for some reason. His trademark mingling of industrial and electronic effects with orchestral elements is present, but almost feels confined or trapped at some points throughout the album, like the music wasn’t given enough room to grow. I’d rate Ghosts of Georgia as serviceable, much like Robert Kral’s score for its predecessor, but would alternately encourage horror fans to indulge themselves in more prodigious recent works like Fernando Velazquez’s Mama or the aforementioned Sinister or Evil Dead. Wandmacher definitely has the skill and predominance to create a thrilling and invigorating horror film score, but Ghosts of Georgia somehow falls flat despite its noisome and terrifying intent.