Took a while to get a hold of this one...and I'm not sure it was worth the wait.
Buy it... if you are curious to hear an effective merging of Danny Elfman's Sleepy Hollow and Wojciech Kilar's Bram Stoker's Dracula, the latter a dominating influence on the Eastern European structures and oppressive atmosphere of this score.
Avoid it... if there's only so much morbidly dramatic atmosphere of a tumultuous, primordial nature that you can handle from Elfman without the true existence of any of the composer's usual, tempering romantic interludes of relieving beauty.
The Wolfman: (Danny Elfman/Various) If the proverbial panic button were to literally exist in Hollywood, Universal Pictures surely would have broken it in the two years they spent pounding it while attempting to assemble a remake of the 1941 horror classic The Wolf Man.
There are weaknesses and highlights in The Wolfman that reinforce the fact that the film, and thus the score, has little truly cohesive development from start to end. It's not the type of score that will tell a story in and of itself, unlike Elfman's classics. A certain amount of stream-of-consciousness thinking prevails, though that does still allow some noteworthy individual cues to stand out. First comes "The Funeral," the middle of which taking the theme and extending it into dramatic territory that is monumentally heartbreaking, one of the few times the title theme is allowed to flow freely outside of solo-dominated performances. Listen for pleasing Chris Young and John Debney connections in this cue. Also of note is "The Traveling Montage," in which the Kilar resemblances are shattered by a more Elfman-like romantic variation on the title theme and a thumping minor-key rhythm of purely Elfman characteristics that will actually remind you of Spider-Man instead. The closing minute of "The Finale" also follows the composer's standard choral-aided crescendo formation for ending character-centered fantasy films. The two transformation cues are somewhat disappointing in how they handle the torment of the title theme, though Elfman does use a meandering pitch in the brass much like Howard Shore applies for his thrillers. There isn't much in the way of respite from the overbearingly sinister tone of the thematic performances in The Wolfman. The first half of "Wake Up, Lawrence" fails to generate much genuine depth in the connection between lead love interests, but it does at least soften the tone a bit. A solo operatic vocal in one cue and an occasional gong hit in the background of a slight violin cue are among other breaks from action. Woodwinds tend to be downplayed in either the composition or the mix. Some of the straight killing cues feature chaos that dates back to Nightbreed, and these selections don't exactly translate to listenable material. On the whole, however, The Wolfman is a strong score as presented. It requires a technical level of appreciation and will be of interest to those seeking to identify all the connections to the popular Kilar predecessor. Like Sleepy Hollow, it's easy to get the impression that The Wolfman will be a score that appeals more to die-hard Elfman fans than the mainstream. With the fate of the film initially looking grim due to poor reviews and an immediate, steep drop-off in box office performance, such narrow appeal may indeed become the case. For those only casually interested in this disaster story, seek "The Funeral" and "The Traveling Montage" outside of the summary suites. Regardless of your opinion of Elfman's product, there has to be agreement that its removal from the picture in favor of Haslinger's style ranks among the most ridiculous studio decisions of this era.