Column: Slicing Score: 1408 (2007)

By Maria Mitchell

1408 (2007). Composer: Gabriel Yared.

The soundtrack to 1408 is interesting for me to review because this is a film I have not seen. I listened to this soundtrack while knowing as little as possible about the movie, simply put: because I didn’t want to know. All I can glean about its content from the liner notes is that the story takes place in a hotel with one man’s stay in the room as the centre of focus.

Hotels have often served as the setting for strange, frightening scenarios to play out in stories. Strangers waft in and out of their rooms, and an exhausted traveler never knows exactly just who might be lodging next door. H.P. Lovecraft’s own story, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, hosts much of its frightening terror in a hotel. While listening to this soundtrack, as a mental experiment, I tried to equate some of the cues with The Shadow Over Innsmouth’s feckless traveler who is pursued in the night by the Deep Ones.

“10 Haunted Hotels”: Not much of a prelude for encompassing ten haunted hotels, I guess, but interesting.

“The Dolphin Hotel”: I hear a little part that is percussive that sounds a bit like the bells in the 39-second overture to Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion. Whether Yared is familiar with this score, I don’t know, but it sounds like someone on this soundtrack’s team was.

“Room 1408”: Nice atmospheric touches in this one: intangible but definitely creepy. Makes you think fear is a breathing presence that you’re already in the belly of. (You are, like the hapless Innsmouth traveler.)

“Katie’s Theme”: This cue is the prettiest on the album and does not synch up with any mental visual that I can think of, so it’s pretty much just pure sound. When I first listened to it, I didn’t look at the name of it. It doesn’t sound feminine but it does sound gentle.

“Ship In a Painting”: I am particularly fond of any piece of film music that evokes the feeling of a ship on the sea.

“Bleeding Walls”: I like how some cues still don’t feel like they exist, even after you’ve heard them. I feel this way about the next five cues, thus, I’m going to skip ahead to number 13.

“Waking up in L.A.”: I don’t care where this cue is supposed to take place; it’s nice to wake up from all those flat-feeling notes. I’ll bet the string section in this cue was neat to hear in person. The strings are utilised with a kind of lazy prettiness that’s not common for horror/suspense films.

“Back to 1408” feels morosely forbidding. The difficult-to-digest thing about the emotive fusion of loneliness and creepiness in film music is it’s hard to tell where the music is supposed to make you feel sad and where it’s supposed to make you feel afraid. The emotions don’t always blend well musically together and this cue seems to have trouble blending the two.

The last two cues don’t feel separate and feel like a welcome, if boring, conclusion. Overall, I think this soundtrack is interesting. All atmospheric music is interesting, but I don’t feel like there was much meat in the way of melody. Not all soundtracks have the snappy, infectious themes that cling to you for a long time. That’s good. Infections themes can linger parasitically in your brain and keep you from listening to other kinds of music.

Half of these cues have a redundant feel to them – redundant like parts of the score to Vertigo or The Omen, or any number of other soundtracks to horror films. When film music is redundant, there are probably a lot of reasons why this redundancy occurs that have nothing to do with thematic feelings or melodic thoughts associated with the piece. Director Mikael Hafstrom says in the liner notes that he spoke with Gabriel Yared about the “heart” and “soul” of this film. They also spoke about good food and wine. I wouldn’t say this soundtrack has any more soul or heart to it than any other I’ve heard. I’d say that Hafstrom and Yared took a good approach in not discussing the music. Too much discussion leads to a very small result because composers may have already built it up in their minds what it is they intend to write, and then never write it. This lack of result engendered by too much thought is true for all forms of writing.

The soundtrack to 1408 is available through Amazon.com. [http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000R7I2WY/?tag=innsfreepres-20]