Dedicated to reviews and news of music for film, TV and games

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Midnight Movie
Music by Penka Kouneva
Howlin' Wolf Records HWRCD-003 (US)
26 Tracks 40:03 mins

Two firsts for me with this release, a new label, Howlin' Wolf Records, and a new composer, Penka Kouneva.
Howlin' Wolf Records has been founded by one of us, a film score collector and enthusiast; it's initial aim to focus on releasing limited edition albums of "dynamic film scores composed for suspense and horror." But they are interested in your wish lists of scores you'd love to see released, so get on over to their website at and let 'em know what you're looking for. Who knows, you may persuade them to broaden their horizons.
As for the composer, Penka Kouneva, she was born and raised in Bulgaria. In 1990 she graduated from the Sofia Music Academy and was awarded the Mary Duke Biddle Graduate Fellowship to study at Duke University; in 1997 receiving there the first-ever Doctoral Degree in Composition. Now based in Hollywood, she composes for film, TV and games (most recently writing additional music for Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen) and has orchestrated for the two Transformers movies, Pirates of the Caribbean 3, Angels & Demons, Sherlock Holmes and many more. She is married to my esteemed fellow film music journalist Daniel Schweiger.
2008's Midnight Movie, the directorial debut of Jack Messitt, received the "Best Feature Film" award at the Chicago Horror Film Festival and has gone on to great acclaim as a direct to DVD feature. If you're confused by the artwork at the top of the review, The Dark Beneath is a film within a film, in that it is an old black & white movie that the audience in the storyline of Midnight Movie is watching.
The first track on the disc, "Darkness and Fear," is actually newly composed, especially for the CD, and expands upon the composer's principal main themes to form something of a mini-suite. Starting off with Gothic chords, it quickly develops a propulsiveness, before a sympathetic feel takes over.
The music that follows pushes all the right buttons, with plenty of mystery and suspense, as well as menacing action and shock chords aplenty; achieving a sound that mixes moody Gothic textures with the kind of synth-driven horror fare of the '70s (the John Carpenter films springing most readily to mind) and more contemporary slasher fare. Genre fans will probably lap it up, and I'm sure it is effective enough on film, but I'm afraid these kind of synths and samples scores never do much for me. However, if you're a fan of the film, or just of the genre, I am sure you'll want to check it out.
Accompanying the CD is a 16-page booklet, with extensive notes by writer/director Messitt, a mini-bio of the composer, and her notes about the score.
As I said at the start, Howlin' Wolf Records releases are limited editions, this one of just 1000 units, so you'd best hurry along to their website if you wish to grab a copy.


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