This two-fer release from Varèse Sarabande pairs two of the more influential and interesting horror soundtracks of the slasher-film era. Charles Bernstein's score to Wes Craven's 1985 slasher cult classic A Nightmare on Elm Street is very much a product of its time, eschewing traditional orchestral approaches while employing state-of-the-art synthesizers and sound effects to convey the horror of Craven's suburban dreamscapes. Bernstein's unsettling cues utilize technology to strong effect, creating sinister atmospheres that effortlessly communicate the threat posed by the film's ghoulish antagonist, Freddy Krueger. The inorganic, dehumanized tones produced by the composer's synthesizers underscore the narrative's detachment from waking reality. That said, taken on its own terms the music is more than a little dated. While the best Hollywood scores boast a timelessness that transcends their origins, A Nightmare on Elm Street is immediately recognizable as a product of the mid-'80s, and whether that's a positive or a negative is left to the listener to determine.
An enterprising and extremely well-documented record, this collection is a distinct success. I listened to it both at a properly high volume, and late in the evening at a low level, when the illusion of the brass in the distance was just as real. The opening Dvorak Fanfare looks back to earlier times. The writing for natural trumpets is designedly primitive, but the composer's allusion to the Austro-Hungarian anthem is wittily engraved in the structure, and its familiarity makes one smile.