Benjamin Wallfisch’s The Invisible Man isn’t perfect, but the chilling atmospherics and moody strings are very effective, and at times truly spine-chilling.
Atmosphere is the absolute centrepiece of this score. The album overall primarily revolves around inducing fear through sheer musical world building. Take the opening cue Cobolt for instance. The music opens coldly, with quiet yet sinister strings and dark synths lurking in the background. It’s the kind of unnerving score that sends a shiver down your spine, and that’s even before the creepy electronics show up. Loud, ominous and almost distorted-sounding, they cut through the cue at various intervals, adding another layer of disturbing to the already on-edge music. They then return in full force with Escape, where slow, creepy horror turns to frantic, panicked action. Here the distortion is turned up to maximum with the oppressive sound certainly making for a nerve-wracking if not rather deafening musical experience for much of the track. Fast-paced strings thankfully take over alongside deep electronic percussion for some portions, adding some tense yet relieving musical segments to the otherwise rather difficult to listen to cue.
Relief then arrives on strings with He’s Gone, the frantic nature of the previous piece having been replaced with a much slower yet still quietly creepy atmosphere. Solemn piano notes then join the strings for the majority of the track’s near four minute runtime. Deep, dark-sounding electronics flow ominously in the background of This Is What He Does, with the semi-relaxed strings from He’s Gone returning to ground the score in somewhat tonally “safe” territory. The short We’ve Got That In Common then continues in a similarly atmospheric vein, bringing the electronics to the forefront in a very cold, Blade Runner 2049-esque style before the high-pitched strings once again arrive to deliver quiet sombreness to the so far rather unsettling cue.
Quiet strings build to a loud, threatening crescendo in Make It Rain, starting quietly and pensively before then gradually becoming louder and more imposing over the course of two minutes until hitting the aforementioned ominous musical peak right at the end. The frantic, ear-piercing electronics then return in Attack, with fast-paced distorted percussion running rapidly alongside. Here the one-note cut-through electronic notes from opening cue Cobolt also return, acting as pretty much the closest thing this score has to a theme for the titular Invisible Man. The musical tone then makes a comeback to slow strings-based solemnity with Why Me, with the instrumentation acting in a similarly crescendo-based fashion to Make It Rain for much of the track’s runtime.
Ominous yet wondrous strings then occupy much of The Suit, opening quietly but then becoming dramatically louder later on for a particularly chilling finish to the track. Said strings then reach a loud, heartwrenching and rather spine-chilling peak in The Asylum, continuing in this vein for a good two minutes before the score then slows down briefly, switching from orchestra to electronics and then kicking the tension right back up with the titular character’s stylistic “motif”.
Fast-paced electronic action forms the compositional backbone of He’s Behind You, with the Invisible Man’s representative in-your-face electronics taking point for much of the track’s harsh and rather deafening four and a half minutes. Deep, synthetic-sounding percussion alongside frantic and very horror-like strings then take over in House Fight, with moody, creepy synth lurking in the background to elevate the already ominous atmosphere to positively stratospheric levels of unnerving. Relief then partially arrives in It’s All A Lie with low pitched, solemn strings, but towards the end the one-note electronics from Cobolt then make an unsettling return, hinting perhaps that things are not as safe as they seem.
Surprise then brings back the saddened strings for a brief two minutes before then seguing rather seamlessly into the album’s standout cue; Denouement. Here the string instruments from previous cues come to a slow, calming and yet still somewhat eerie finale, primarily because of how said instrumentation is utilised. The pace and style of the music feels solemn and almost relaxed, yet the volume and later intensity of the strings adds an edge of dramatic and ominousness that really cements this uncertainty in the score as to whether the movie’s ordeal is actually over or not. It’s pretty spooky, and certainly the standout musical idea of the score.
The Invisible Man isn’t a perfect score by any means, but it is an effective one – where it does succeed, it does so incredibly well. The deep, in-your-face electronics for the titular character in Cobolt, the sombre, eloquent strings that add an eerie edge to the calming finale of Denouement – these are some excellent examples of where Benjamin Wallfisch really hits the mark here in his atmospheric musical effort. Things do slow down in terms of interesting cues through the middle of the album, but the more interesting tracks on either side make up for it with ominous atmospheric scoring and solemn yet horror-like utilisation of strings. In essence, if you listened to Blade Runner 2049 and thought it might work better as a horror score, then this is the album for you.
Standout Cue: 15. Denouement