Recording information: Abbey Road Studios, London, England; Air Studios, London, England.
The cult classic supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows has a rich musical history, including the show's Grammy-nominated "Quentin's Theme," part of Robert Cobert's groundbreaking score, which remains one of the best-selling TV soundtracks. While Tim Burton's 2012 film adaptation of the series was much more intentionally campy, Danny Elfman's score remains more or less true to the original's gothic grandeur while adding his own distinctive touches. It's not till the very end of the majestic "Dark Shadows - Prologue" that the towering strings and choir feel intentionally overwrought. Elfman uses classic musical horror tropes -- scrabbling strings, wistfully eerie solo vocals -- so skillfully and knowingly that his fans as well as fans of horror soundtracks in general will appreciate the mix of seriousness and playfulness in them. Elfman also nods to Cobert's score with tracks such as "Hypno Music" and "Deadly Handshake," which boasts a melody that recalls the original Dark Shadows theme song, replete with suspenseful vibraphone and murky, lingering woodwinds. Things get more interesting on "Shadows - Reprise," which is propelled by zooming analog synths that evoke the film's early-'70s setting in a completely different way. Throughout the score, Elfman balances horror, suspense, and the faintest wisp of romance cleverly, and with just enough camp to underscore that this is music for a (very dark) comedy. While it may not be as indelible as Cobert's music, Elfman's Dark Shadows is scary good fun for fans of the composer and the film. ~ Heather Phares