Bear McCreary’s score for the new Child’s Play is near-masterfully composed, with the use of a toy orchestra to get across the child-like yet incredibly sinister atmosphere of the film being a stroke of horror-base genius.
McCreary seems to be on a bit of a roll at the moment, having only recently released his fantastic soundtrack for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and now just a few weeks later he’s treated us to even more, this time with the new Child’s Play. Having been a fan of his work for a little while now (particular favourites being his Cloverfield and Godzilla albums) I’ve come to expect a certain level of quality with his usually outstanding compositional work, and having now listened to it more than a few times, I can safely say that Child’s Play more than meets that bar.
The album begins with Theme From Child’s Play, and the sinister atmosphere of the movie is gotten across near-immediately as light percussion appears in combination with very ominous-sounding child-like vocals that then sound out the first rendition of the Child’s Play theme. Additional and far deeper vocals then join the fray and the music starts to rise in intensity, with the backing instruments becoming increasingly dramatic and intimidating as the track continues, but underneath it all you can hear the opening vocals singing the new main theme (this occurs throughout the piece), which all together makes for a very creepy and atmospheric introduction to the album overall.
One particularly interesting thing to note about this theme (and the score) is McCreary’s use of instrumentation, as he primarily used various musical toys (including little toy pianos, harmonicas and Slinkies) to compose it, with standard strings and vocals playing much more of a background role. This compositional choice is incredibly effective, as the use of children’s toys (which sound quite innocent, child-like and friendly) combined with the sinister vocals and strings creates quite an unnerving musical atmosphere, and one that I feel pretty perfectly captures the character of Chucky.
If you didn’t think the theme could get any more disturbing, you were wrong – just before the track draws to a close, Mark Hamill (the actor who voices Chucky in the new film, you may have heard of him) takes centre stage, singing the particularly frightening “Buddi Song”, a vocal piece that McCreary also composed for the film which the Chucky doll sings at various points in the story. A recurring theme in this album is taking usually happy and reassuring child-related objects and making them horrifying, and this has never been more true than with the “Buddi Song”, a nursery rhyme-type piece that nearly makes my skin crawl.
Birth of Chucky is where the full score begins, and it opens with a few ominous notes from the main Child’s Play theme on a one of the instruments from McCreary’s toy orchestra, which sounds creepy as ever. Like with the theme, things slowly become more intense as the music continues, with the strings and deep vocals showing up once again to hammer home the horror. Tonally, things then switch up completely with Karen and Andy, an almost happy-sounding piece that primarily uses soft piano notes and hopeful strings. Having listened to the full album, I noted that there seem to be two sides to this album; the hopeful (as illustrated here), and the horrifying (the Child’s Play theme, for instance). Given Chucky’s rather two-faced nature (a toy for children that kills people) this was likely a very deliberate compositional choice, and a highly effective one at that.
This somewhat cheery new tone continues through the next few tracks, with A New Friend and Tickle Time being of particular note. They’re so contrastingly happy in comparison to previous cues (and the fact that this is a horror score), with a great example being a rather happy-sounding rendition of the main theme about half-way through A New Friend, a musical moment that I found particularly unnerving. The horror then gradually fades back in with Bad Influence, a tense strings and vocal-heavy piece that slowly seeds in the ominous nature of Chucky throughout its six minute runtime.
A small glimmer of hope shines through in Deactivating Chucky, with the soft piano notes and almost cheerful strings making a welcome return, but said hope is pretty quickly ripped away by the subsequent In The Basement, where the main theme and toy orchestra return in full force for a few very tense and horror-esque minutes. It’s at this point in the album where McCreary pretty much abandons the softer side of the score and the darker side of Chucky takes over for a number of full horror cues.
Of particular note is Zed Mart Massacre, a piece that marks the start of the score’s finale, opening with anxious strings that quietly build up in the background before then exploding in a burst of vocal and toy orchestra-based intensity. The main theme makes a number of creepy appearances throughout the track, reinforcing the near-terrifying horror/action musical combination that takes up much of this nearly six minute cue. Things then continue in a similar vein with subsequent track Chucky’s Trap, a piece that contains a particularly loud and creepy vocal-based rendition of the main theme in combination with rapid strings and very intense percussion. The softer side of the album then makes one final appearance in Friends Until The End, with light vocals and quiet piano notes playing a uncharacteristically gentle rendition of the main theme.
To finish up, McCreary has something rather special in store; a newly orchestrated rendition of the original 1988 Child’s Play theme. The toy orchestra features prominently here along with the child-like vocals introduced in the opening Theme From Child’s Play, and overall it’s a pretty perfect and very fitting conclusion to the album.
All-in, Bear McCreary’s score to the new Child’s Play is absolutely horrific, but in a good way. His new Theme From Child’s Play is a near-masterful tonal combination of happy and cheerful yet sinister and creepy, and it’s used to great effect throughout the score as all good themes should be, so major points there. Of particular note is the composer’s excellent compositional choice to primarily use a toy orchestra to create the score, as this idea of using typically innocent and friendly objects intended for children in a very unnerving (and contrasting) musical manner is incredibly effective in forming the album’s eerie atmosphere, and also pretty perfectly captures the character of Chucky. These in combination with some great action/horror cues (Zed Mart Massacre, In The Basement) makes Child’s Play yet another winner for the composer.
You’re on a roll, Mr. McCreary. Keep it up!
Standout Cue: 2. Theme From Child’s Play