Buy it... only if you are well aware of (and appreciate) Mark Isham's tendencies when producing low budget, synthetic scores of mostly atmosphere, because The Crazies really explores no new territory of significant interest.
Avoid it... if only roughly five minutes of spooky harmony of an attractively eerie nature is not enough to sustain a laborious, hour-long presentation of this effective, but drab suspense music on album.
The Crazies: (Mark Isham) Likely viewed by its small studio as a quick way to make some cash, 2010's The Crazies is a remake of a 1973 film of the same name. Both low budget horror flicks feature a concept in which a small town's water supply is contaminated and causes so much insanity that drastic measures have to be taken to control the problem.
The film also proved to be a relatively easy paycheck for composer Mark Isham, whose career is perhaps as varied in genre as any but who had produced a handful of somewhat high-profile scores for productions in the horror and thriller genres over the previous ten years. His output for such pictures is never overwhelming, ranging from the downright awful Twisted in 2004 to the far more engaging Don't Say a Word and The Mist before and after. The latter two scores utilized the same general template by which Isham would tackle The Crazies, consisting of a blend of eerie beauty and atmospheric dissonance. There's nothing groundbreaking in any of this material, and that trend continues in The Crazies, but you can't fault Isham for providing a workmanlike piece of music for a film short on cash and low on expectations. His ensemble for this score is purely synthetic, an electronic group called "The Sodden Dog Electronic Arts Ensemble," and their performance generally sounds like a combination of keyboarded atmosphere, accents from sound effects libraries, and the occasional electric guitar. Some of the material from the ensemble is credited to contributing assistant composers as well, though there is no evidence of cohesion challenges resulting in the music. Casually, it seems like your average, underdeveloped, hazy environment for a psychologically troubled concept. And, for much of its running time, it actually is.
No attempt is really made to give Isham's music for The Crazies an artificially organic texture; instead, it meanders through its synthetic tones, with or without a basic, slow, rhythmic pace-setter, as though the film dealt with the dangerous exploration of a foreign world. Appropriate jabs and thuds mark synchronization points in the film in unpredictable places, and for lengthier sequences of fright, Isham responds with grating dissonance at high pitches. The outright action and chase material, as in "Getaway," is generic in its slightly rock-influenced percussion of a slapping tone and vague guitar contributions. Most of the score dwells in the lower regions of the sonic spectrum, however, benefiting from a very wet mix to enhance a dreamy (or nightmarish) atmosphere similar to The Mist. A few times, Isham uses a technique of lowering the pitch on a sound as though to suggest a passing train whistle or a rushing siren. Interestingly, the moments of underscore meant to purely sink into the background of the film, like "Mad House," are surprisingly harmonic in their overarching tone, meaning that while they may lack much excitement, they at least pass without challenging your tolerance on album. Above and beyond the collection of ambient thrashing, banging, and droning portions of the score are a few highlights that attempt to infuse a badly-needed sense of character. Portions of "Something in the Water Supply," "Let It Mean Something," and "Cedar Rapids" explore thematic lines that never really come together to form a cohesive identity but still function as a relief when compared to the majority of the score. The most appealing of these is "Let It Mean Something," which solemnly declares a harmonic line with the score's only significant counterpoint, producing an alluring effect at the end of that cue. The redemptive feeling in the light rock conclusion to "Cedar Rapids" is appropriately deceptive and comes to a creepy halt as a new danger is introduced at the end of the film. These highlights really only amount to five minutes or so on an hour-long album presentation from the Varèse Sarabande label, which is the primary difficulty with the product as a whole. While the score was obviously inexpensive to purchase for that album pressing, the music really can't sustain an hour-long listening experience, so unless you've clearly established yourself as an enthusiast of Isham's understated works, be aware that the highlights in The Crazies are shorter and less attractive than the composer's norm. **