I used to be known by my pals as the Queen of the Soundtracks. I’d go into a record store and search through the $.99 bin for cut-out soundtracks to movies that nobody had every heard of and discover some damn fine music in the process. I don’t do that anymore, mostly because soundtracks have become so popular it’s no longer fun to search for a real find, but also because modern soundtracks tend to suck. I used to find it was possible to love a soundtrack without ever even having seen the movie it accompanies. But that’s not the case with 28 Days Later.
By all accounts, the movie, about a killer virus and raging zombies in London, is scary. It was directed by Danny Boyle, who was also responsible for the vastly underrated Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, which, in case you live on Mars, had one of the best soundtracks of the last decade. With the promise of the past, I expected the best, and thought the soundtrack, like the movie, would be wrapped in a brooding and eerie feel. But with few pop songs and limited emotion, I was largely disappointed.
For one, “East Hastings” by Godspeed You Black Emperor! (which was actually rumored to be scoring the movie, at one point) was featured in the film, but is not on the soundtrack. For another, I wanted to hear the intensity of the movie, but instead got the lilting soprano of Perri Alleyne and the musical score of John Murphy. Murphy is a well-known composer, and his stuff is good. I just wanted to feel scarier paranoia. And, to be honest, I wanted pop songs.
The high points of the soundtrack are “Am 180” by Grandaddy, the sleep-inducing (in a good way) “An Ending (Ascent)” by the always inventive Brian Eno, and “Season Song” by Blue States. “Season Song” is the only real haunter, and fits perfectly on a horror movie soundtrack; a chorus of children sing in the background and brings to mind the theme song from The Lost Boys. The Rui Da Silva remix puts a little bounce into the song, but lessens its scariness.
The 28 Days Later soundtrack is best suited for rainy night backdrop music to accompany downing a glass of red wine while reading the latest issue of Italian Vogue or for a late-night bath. It’s not in the league of the Trainspotting soundtrack, but it’s quiet, save two or three loud moments, and Murphy’s score is strangely relaxing.