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Big Bad Wolves (Frank Ilfman)

March 22, 2014

Cover_bigbadwolvesBIG BAD WOLVES

Frank Ilfman, 2014, ScreamWorks Records
18 tracks, 54:16

Is it big? Yes. Is it bad? Not even close. Was it written by wolves? Not quite. Composed by Frank Ilfman, “Big Bad Wolves” is an outstanding thriller score.
Review by Pete Simons

WINNER “Best Thriller/Horror Score”, 2014 Synchrotones’ Soundtrack Awards.

What is it?

“Big Bad Wolves” is an Israeli crime thriller written and directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado. Inspired by Korean New Wave, this revenge film follows the life of a brutal serial killer through the eyes of three people: the father of the latest victim, a vigilante police detective and the likeliest suspect who had just been released from custody. The paths of the three men are bound to collide… Whilst a thriller, the film is also said to be quite funny. Composer of this film is Israel-born Haim Frank Ilfman, who had hitherto been unknown to me (and likely to many others), despite having over 40 credits to his name. Well, “Big Bad Wolves” is quite a formidable introduction.

What does it sound like?

Ilfman notes that he wanted to provide the score to “Big Bad Wolves” with a larger-than-life main theme. He says “The film has a few very Hitchcockian moments so we wanted to have a very bold strong main theme that can stand on its own and something that will stay with you when you leave the cinema thinking of the movie.” That theme comes in the form of 6 notes and has a slight familiar feel to it. True to the composer’s intentions, it is memorable. During the opening track it is initially performed on flute lending it an eerie quality, whilst other woodwinds and string provide a quirky background. Superficially Danny Elfman comes to mind; but perhaps more so Alexandre Desplat. The way the accompanying winds and strings dance around each other, without being obtrusive, is simply mesmerising.

The main theme is repeated numerous times, in a various guises, throughout the album. I’d say it appears in most tracks, in one form or another. Sometimes it’s performed by flute, making it sound a little sinister; other times it’s carried by strings making it sound opulent and darkly romantic. And when the main theme itself is not being utilised, Ilfman has several other recurring motifs; making this a coherent and consistent score. And it is a strong album, from start to finish; wonderfully performed by the London Metropolitan Orchestra. There’s a big, warm sound to it. Ilfman occasionally employs acoustic and electronic sound effects to heighten the tension. These sounds never feel out of place; and in fact they brilliantly enhance Ilfman’s otherwise very melodic and harmonic score.

To mark any particular highlights is nigh impossible. The opening track “Main Theme” would be an obvious choice. It’s dark and brooding, yet towards the end of its 4-minutes running time it has developed into something quite lush and (almost) epic. Tracks like “The March”, “The Chair of Horror”, “The Chase” and “Bike vs Car” are complimented by exciting (and sometimes innovative) percussive writing. Oh… and none of these sampled loops. We’re talking real drums here. It’s amazing (or is it?) how much ‘life’ real percussionists bring to the performance.

“Hide and Seek” is a deliciously devilish cue that houses some techniques and motifs that recur several times in various later tracks: col legno strings, aggressive brass stabs and a supporting 4-note descending loop. The latter half of “Scream For Me” contains a 3-chord motif that reminds me of Michael Giacchino’s theme for Kahn from “Star Trek Into Darkness“. Marco Beltrami also springs to mind when listening to the strings and sticks ostinato during the opening of “Saved by the Bell”. The tension intensifies as the album progress, and ultimately resolves in “The Missing Girl and Epilogue” which features a lush rendition of the main theme for strings, as well as beautiful piano statement of a secondary theme.

Is it any good?

It’s nothing short of magnificent! Ilfman has been a fan of film music from a young age; and he got a chance to work with Jan Hammer on the TV show “The Chancer” when he was just seventeen years old. His love for film and music is evident in every single cue. There is real drama here, through excellent writing and wonderful orchestrations. Earlier I made a superficial comparison to Alexandre Desplat, but the more I listen to “Big Bad Wolves” the more I agree with my own statement. On the surface you have this simple, almost elegiac main theme, but in the background things are constantly moving. Combined with a big orchestra, a deep warm sound and a clear recording, you have yourself a very addictive little album. If you want to unhide a gem, make it this one!

Rating [4/5]


1. Big Bad Wolves: Main Theme 4:15
2. Hide and Seek: Opening Titles 4:10
3. The March 2:00
4. Scream for Me 3:16
5. The Chair of Horror 2:41
6. The Phone Call 1:46
7. The Chase 3:15
8. Help Me 2:38
9. Saved by the Bell 2:45
10. A Story About a Little Girl 4:16
11. Hammer and Bones 1:55
12. Man Rides a Horse 1:35
13. The Truth Wil Set You Free 2:42
14. The Green House 3:53
15. Now Talk 2:00
16. Bike vs Car 2:37
17. The Last Breath 3:48
18. The Missing Girl and Epilogue 4:48

Visit the ScreamWorks/MovieScore Media website for more information.

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