5 Must-See Films Scored by Howard Shore
With three Oscars, three Golden Globes and four Grammys under his belt, Canadian composer Howard Shore, the recipient of this year’s Visions Award Nescens, has undoubtedly made his mark on the film industry. Having gotten his start with fellow countryman David Cronenberg (to date, he’s scored all but one of the body horror maestro’s films since The Brood), he’s worked with a wide array of directors, from Kevin Smith to Tim Burton to Martin Scorsese. His most recent work includes this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner, Spotlight, and Mick Jackson’s upcoming Denial. In honor of his presence in Locarno, we look back on five(ish) films made memorable, to a large extent, by his music.
Videodrome – David Cronenberg, 1983
Cronenberg’s eighth film, and his third collaboration with Shore, is a biting satire set in the TV industry, where mind control and hallucinations lead to increasingly violent behavior. James Woods’ unsettling performance is perfectly complemented by Shore’s eerie score, which highlights the film’s various layers of madness, gore and dark humor, sometimes blending all three at the same time.
The Silence of the Lambs – Jonathan Demme, 1991
While Jonathan Demme definitely is no Cronenberg in terms of imagery, it’s undeniable that Shore was still in his element when working on this suspenseful and occasionally gruesome adaptation of Thomas Harris’ bestseller. Subtly unsettling from the very start of the opening credits, the musical accompaniment is very much like Anthony Hopkins’ rendition of Hannibal Lecter: charming and seductive, but with a creepy undercurrent.
Ed Wood – Tim Burton, 1994
Having experienced a rare falling out with his regular composer Danny Elfman after working on Batman Returns and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Tim Burton asked Shore to compose the music for this heartfelt tribute to a passionate yet talentless filmmaker. The result, while audibly not Elfman, is definitely Burtonesque, especially in the gloriously surreal opening sequence. In fact, it’s fairly ironic that what might be Burton’s best film is about a terrible filmmaker, and not scored by his most loyal collaborator.
Crash – David Cronenberg, 1996
Highly controversial upon release, Cronenberg’s adaptation of the eponymous J.G. Ballard novel remains shocking to this day (in the UK, it is still officially banned in the Westminster area of London). Melding sex and death via the implausibly erotic imagery associated with car crashes, the Canadian director invites us on a journey that is deeply disturbing, but also somewhat seductive. Shore’s music achieves a similar effect, luring us into Ballard’s hedonistic world before punching us in the gut.
The Lord of the Rings – Peter Jackson, 2001-2003
Much like the books, written as one tome and split into three for publication, Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s epic saga is really one big film, released in three installments (not counting subsequent extended editions). Shore’s Oscar-winning work captures the essence of every single facet and tone of the story, from the bucolic whimsy of the Shire to the heartbreak of Gandalf’s apparent demise, all the way to the epic final battle for Middle Earth. The composer even got to indulge his genre roots during the Shelob sequence in The Return of the King, with Jackson openly encouraging him to treat the scene as if it were a Cronenberg film.