The Oscar nominees for Best Original Score are all over the map this year, but that's not a bad thing. Hans Zimmer's Dunkirk score was his most effective, least commercial endeavor in a while, Jonny Greenwood tempered his avant-garde instincts with some swooning romanticism in Phantom Thread, while John Williams continued to easily churn out incredible leitmotifs for yet another Star Wars movie after half-a-century of doing so (that Rose theme rules extremely hard). While these are all established names, these particular scores are a little more daring in some way, in line with the progressive nature of many of the nominees in the other categories this year. Counterpoint, though: It was totally robbed.
Complaining is fruitless, and there isn't much of a reason to expect more from the infamously safe Academy. And yet, I'm gonna argue that the Best Score category snubbed this notable contender, a film that was among the year's biggest successes. It, which became the highest-grossing horror film of all time and revitalized the villain Pennywise for the meme generation, probably should've garnered a nomination for its composer Benjamin Wallfisch.
Wallfisch's score for It has the dissonance and extreme dynamics a good modern horror score needs, but it also contains a plethora of textures and compositional approaches, rather than just sticking to screeching strings (though there are plenty of those, too). "27 Years Later" borrows liberally from Erik Satie, winding through the film's gloomy opening scenes with delicacy, while also harkening back to the more romantic scores of the 80s teen-adventure flicks that It (and Wallfisch, according to this interview) seeks to pay homage to. This and other character themes sum up the movie's themes of innocence lost without beating the viewer over the head with creepy music-box melodies.
That being said, the musical execution of that innocence being shattered is monstrously evocative and inspired, as well. Sampled children's voices are chopped-up and processed through distortion into maniacal, hammering walls of sound during the moments when Pennywise reveals itself in its various disguises, such as "Shape Shifter." Combined with the great slabs of tearing synths that Wallfisch would utilize for Blade Runner 2049 in the same year, the result is closer to musique concrète or industrial music than film score, sort of like how Akira Yamaoka's music and sound design for the Silent Hill games amplified already-terrifying enemy encounters through atonal, repetitive sensory overload.
So, the It score is a technical marvel, but a nomination for it would have also done justice to years of deserving horror film soundtracks that never got their due. A lot of those scores are indeed just "ominous drone, then LOUD STRINGS" but that would be leaving out the discordant voices of The Witch or the tragic grandeur of Byung-woo Lee's waltz for A Tale of Two Sisters. Hell, the eerie backwoods choirs of Get Out's score could have got a nomination this year, actually. You won't find weirder, more bizarrely beautiful scores than in horror or other genre films, so it's still kind of dumb that the Academy will still give the award to dramas over these kinds of movies.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey CA.