Embracing a more fluid, dramatic scoring style in a mystery/thriller vein, prolific sci-fi/horror maestro Richard Band turns in a nuanced score for director Arthur Allan Seidelman’s The Caller. This relatively obscure Empire Pictures thriller is about a chance
encounter between two strangers (Malcolm McDowell and Madolyn Smith) that may not be as random as first appears.
“The score had to feel suspenseful, lonely, melancholy, sweet, desperate and off-kilter. Since the film only had two actors, the music had to carry quite a load without stepping on any of the dialogue or intent,” Band reveals in the liner notes. Adding a sinister sheen to his compositions are Christopher L. Stone’s effective electronic orchestrations. (The duo would later collaborate on the score for the more ambitious horror show Prison; hopefully this is on a label’s production roster for the new year!) Band creates a landscape of dread with each progressive cue, layering the tracks with growing but subtle tinges of paranoia. Yet amidst the suspense, there is a rich sense of down-to-earth drama, in a style that marks a refreshing change of direction for the composer.
At nine minutes, the “Main Title” is a grand entrance to the score, an elegant meeting of misty, electronic ambiances, warm woodwinds, and tranquil strings. Especially relevant to the tension, the violins are laden with the subtlest hints of danger in classic thriller mode. A beautiful string motif arises from this trembling musical mix, traversing through Band’s sonic tapestry like a nocturnal portent. Prominent throughout this richly designed cue are breathing, synthesized tones that add a parallel sense of mystery to the sleek, silvery strings.
Reprising some of the main theme, “Oh, At Last” emphasizes airy electronics with an assist from more subdued symphonic measures. “There It Is” evokes a more profound, suspenseful pace, with slow strings and electronic waves, glimmering with a shadowy sense of urgency reminiscent of Pino Donaggio. Executing a more formal mode of suspense scoring, “Get Out” is dominated by slashing strings and crashing cymbals.
Yet another lengthy composition, the gritty “Melt Down” commences with appropriately fractured synthetic vibrations that hover menacingly. As the nightmare escalates, more alien, expansive tones emerge, until they’re eventually shattered by an outburst of lumbering strings. A clattering percussion effect plays in harmony with intense strings as Band creates the musical equivalent of a do or die face-off.
The album fades to a close with the irony of “Back to the Beginning,” with a spiraling, carnivalesque rhythm cycle in the vein of Thomas Newman and ’80s New Age mainstay Ray Lynch. While the film will likely never receive the belated appreciation of more notable 1980s suspense-thrillers, Richard Band’s score is one of the best of its type from that decade. As with the label’s earlier signature editions of his music, the sound is crisp and immaculate, with his trademark mix of orchestral and electronic fusions resonating confidently throughout. If you own one Richard Band CD, make it The Caller—but don’t put this on hold too long—only 1,000 units were pressed!