With the exception of Absence, which included a score by Ryan David Leak, the Newton Brothers have composed the music for every Mike Flanagan project since Oculus, including his most recent TV series Midnight Mass. From his films to his TV anthologies, the Newton Brothers have found unique and exciting ways to help amplify Flanagan’s distinct terror stories, each requiring different musical elements.
The Newton brothers know that at the heart of any Flanagan project is emotional volatility. To get audiences to empathize with the characters on screen and be convinced of the horrific storylines they go through, the score must provide a palpable and emotional foundation. It is difficult to rank the scores of Flanagan’s projects as they are all so well done, but it also demonstrates the growth and familiarity that has developed over the years between the creator and his musical collaborators.
ten Shhh (2016) – Available on Netflix
Silence is an under the radar thriller but a favorite among Flanagan fans. It stars his wife and dating collaborator Kate Siegel as Maddie, a writer who lives alone in a beautiful glass house in the woods. Everything in Maddie’s life is idyllic until she becomes the target of a home invasion, and due to her deafness she has to rely on her other senses to thwart her attacker.
Due to the premise of the film and long periods of silence, there is very little of a true musical score, but the Newton Brothers effectively use ambient sounds to bring Maddie’s perception of the world to life and maintain tension.
9 Absentia (2011) – Available on Prime
One of Flanagan’s earliest works, Absence nonetheless presents a few of its signature business cards, including the bond between siblings and a sense of horror that pervades a community setting. However, it does not include a score by his longtime collaborators, the Newton Brothers, but rather the talents of composer Ryan David Leack.
Absence follows a woman and her younger sister as they investigate a mysterious tunnel linked to her husband’s disappearance. Leack does an adequate job of lulling viewers into a false sense of security with melodic pianos as the siblings begin to piece together the pieces of the mystery. By the end of the movie, once they realize the tunnel can be a portal to unspeakable evil, Leack upped her strings, synthesizers, and pulse organs to a wonderfully terrifying finish.
8 Ouija: Origins Of Evil (2016) – Available on Hulu
For Ouija: Origin of evil, a sequel to Ouija, a film based on children’s play, Flanagan decided to go in a direction centered on his primordial origins. The story begins with a widowed mother who, through her sitting affairs, unwittingly leads a demon to possess her youngest daughter, and then desperately tries to get her back.
The film is a period play in many ways, set in Los Angeles in 1967, and there are times the Newton brothers sprinkle nods back to the time. But for the most part, their score is otherworldly, atmospheric, and frankly very sad, often reflecting the feelings of regret of the mother who sacrificed her child for quick money.
7 Before I Wake Up (2016) – Available on Netflix
For Flanagan’s well received Before I wake up the creator took a whimsical look at The omen by means of Pan’s Labyrinth, about a young boy who is adopted by a couple who were still mourning the loss of their son years earlier, to find out he can conjure up the dead boy (and other fantastic things) in elaborate dream sequences that range from inspiration to horror.
The Newton Brothers collaborated with Danny Elfman (Tim Burton’s oft-used composer) for this score, and Elfman brings the same whimsical and spooky element he did for beetle juice play among their firm strings and clanging pianos. There is a fairytale essence to the film despite its chills and thrills, and the score never loses sight of it.
6 Oculus (2013) – Available on Hulu
Widely regarded as Flanagan’s escape film, Oculus incorporates basic elements from Flanagan’s later works such as the bond between siblings, family resilience, community, and personal tragedy. When two orphaned adult siblings confront a malicious entity that could have caused the death of their parents, they run the risk of being trapped by the evil itself, found in a seemingly harmless mirror.
For the first collaboration between Flanagan and the Newton Brothers, the composers layer orchestral pieces with more organic sounds, weaving a dense and vibrant sonic narrative to reflect terror on screen. Things like water drops suddenly become not only sinister, but the basis of haunting melodies.
5 Gerald’s Game (2017) – Available on Netflix
Before he assumes Doctor sleep, Flanagan adapted another of Stephen King’s stories – Gerald’s game, which focuses on a couple who travel to a remote retreat to rekindle their love life, only for it to turn into a truly heartbreaking nightmare for the woman once she finds herself alone and tied up in the house.
The Newton Brothers have teamed up with Andy Grush to create a score that begins with sweetness, love and melody, reflecting the intimate passion of couples, only to descend into wind instruments and chaotic strings once she has to fight for his life in the dark. As much of the film focuses on her alone, unsure of what she is experiencing is real, the music is essential for her fear to be visceral.
4 The Haunting Of Bly Manor (2020) – Available on Netflix
A kind of spiritual successor to The Haunting of Hill House, The Haunting of Bly Manor features several members of the same cast but carries the scares back to ’80s England, where a housekeeper is sent to the spirits of two young wards convinced their mansion is haunted. The Newton Brothers are consciously changing the tone to suit the masterful mansion and its funeral occupants, while adding unexpected delicacies.
Tense and frantic ropes abound for Manor of Bly most shocking moments, as the flourishes of the soft piano underscore its tragic romance, and the care of the music box combine to create an elegant, gothic soundscape that fans will find themselves streaming on a rainy day, wishing the absolution for unhappy ghosts.
3 Midnight Mass (2021) – Available on Netflix
For Midnight Mass, Flanagan’s most recent project, the Newton Brothers, decided to pursue an interesting fusion of appropriate composition and songs by Neil Diamond. What seems dissonant for a slow-paced horror series set in an isolated island community perfectly captures the minds of working-class citizens who are quite ready to believe in the miracles that come with a mysterious new preacher.
By creating an array of church liturgical hymns and rock’n’roll hymns, the Newton brothers help convey many themes found throughout the series correctly: devotion and rebellion, enslavement and analysis, life and death. , faith and atheism. There are a lot of heavy topics in the series as well as a lot of fun pop culture references in Midnight Mass, but the music helps support them both.
2 Doctor Sleep (2019) – Available on Prime
Flanagan had big, creative shoes to fill when he tackled Doctor sleep, The sequel not only to Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The shiny, but the famous novel of the same name by Stephen King. In order to do both justice, the Newton brothers had to marry Flanagan’s vision with his visual predecessors, as well as pick up the baton from the first film’s composer, Wendy Carlos.
With just a few painful notes provided by a powerful brass section, Carlos created a theme based on “Dies irae, dies illa”, a 500 year old Latin hymn that was as relentless as Jack Torrance crossing the Overlook Hotel with an ax. . . The Newton Brothers not only paid homage to Carlos’ score, but also incorporated elements of jazz, screaming vocals, hammering pianos, and synthesizers to create the perfect soundtrack of the psychological horrors unfolding for an adult Danny Torrance. .
1 The Haunting Of Hill House (2018) – Available on Netflix
One of the most successful entries in the horror anthology genre (and many fans’ first introduction to Flanagan’s work), The Haunting of Hill House presents a score that is at once disturbing, sinister and provocative. The intricate melodies must properly highlight a traumatic family, who are forced to return to the forbidden site of childhood terror decades later to deal with their grief.
Ghosts come in many forms in this series, and the musical tapestry should emphasize their psychological and physical effects on the Fears as they confront them. Moving strings, heart-wrenching piano ballads, and sinister synths have combined to make this one of the most haunting scores of all of Flanagan’s works.
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