Alejandro Amenábar established himself as a very talented young director in late 1990’s with the strong Spanish thriller Open Your Eyes (later remade in Hollywood as Vanilla Sky). He then made a very successful traditional horror The Others, heartbreaking drama The Sea Inside and curious historical epic Agora. Regression is his first film in about six years… This psychological thriller about child abuse and nationwide conspiracy stars Ethan Hawke and Emma Watson. The response so far seems very unfavourable and it certainly doesn’t bode well for box office returns.
Roque Baños’ music for the film is, at least in some ways, similar to his horror score Evil Dead. It perhaps doesn’t explode with the same sense of grandeur but there are certain similarities that push this thriller story into a more troubled and turbulent territory of supernatural terror. ‘Opening’ starts of with a haunting and ghostly boy soprano, with uneasy string textures rambling in the background. The main theme is also introduced in this track. It will often recur throughout the album, in various arrangements (‘They’ll Kill Me’, Mom Was Followed’). ‘A Shattered Family’ is truly morbid in tone. And that is what kind of mood will accompany us all throughout the soundtrack album.
The more turbulent and uneasy material comes in with the third track, ‘John’s Regression’. The creepy steady clock-like ticking, over which the repetitive piano motif is developed. It’s really creepy, especially when other ensemble elements join in: the slightly cliched horror string glissandi and solo voice make obligatory appearances. The ticking sound later comes back later on the album with ‘In Roy’s Bedroom’. In ‘Angela’s Statement’, Ba back the main theme (from the opening track) in a truly creepy high string arrangement which brings to mind some horror scores if Jerry Goldsmith. Low female voice (courtesy of Lotte Rhodes) will send shivers down your spine.
Baños also uses chorus, which is similar in some respects to what he did on his popular score for the recent Evil Dead remake from 2013. In ‘They’ll Kill Me’, ‘The Black Mass’ and ‘This Is All For You’, we hear some disturbingly dark demonic whispers, as well as the distant echo of boy soprano and some twisted synthesised effects. It’s nothing new, of course, but still works.
The pace of the soundtrack is quite steady for the most part and quickens only occasionally. ‘Back to the Tapes’ brings back the repetitive motif in an suspenseful action mode. ‘This Is Science’ and ‘The Fight’ portray the final confrontations. The ending to the album is just as morbid as its opening. Having said that, both ‘Evil Itself’ and ‘It’s My Fault – End Credits’ bring a strong resolution to the primary material. The main theme is arranged for voices and Baños makes it sound more liturgical. The redemptive extended string arrangement that follows offers us some satisfaction and a sense of denouement. Finally.
In the end, Regression is hard to recommend. Roque Baños’ writing is as accomplished as ever but the long 65-minute soundtrack release makes for a really tough listen. Thematic material is well developed throughout the running time but there’s still a ton of other music that just doesn’t make for a satisfying experience apart from film. Among the more anonymous underscore, there is probably about half an hour of worthy music to be enjoyed and savoured. But this is yet another strong score killed by the running time of its overindulgent album presentation.
Regression is out now from Lakeshore Records