I caught From Inside (the film) back in 2009 when it played at the Dead by Dawn Film Festival in Edinburgh and after 3 years it looks to finally be getting a release - in the US at least. Based on the epic graphic novel by John Bergin (who also directed the adaptation), From Inside is the story of Cee, a young pregnant woman who finds herself on a damaged train slowly making its way across a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape. Flood, war, starvation and a plague of death threaten the train’s passengers. Cee struggles through these dangers while coping with the memory of her lost husband and the imminent birth of her child.
I must admit I wasn't a massive fan of the film, I found it so sadistically bleak and overly serious it verged on being ridiculous at times. I did, however, love the style and presentation of the film. From Inside is told through the still images of the graphic novel itself, with a few added CGI elements. This makes it a not entirely cinematic experience, but the the novel's illustrations are beautifully rendered, which makes up for this. The events on screen are entirely narrated by one character too, which again limits the scope of the film. Making up for this is where composer Brett Smith comes in. To imbue this still and sparse world with life is the score's job and Smith's work achieves this admirably.
OK, maybe giving the film 'life' is not quite the best way to describe this soundtrack. To fit the tone of the film, Smith uses dark, ambient atmospherics and splashes of electronica. It's a subtle and moody experience, but a rewarding one for those with a taste for the style. Its slow drones, discordant aspects and short intense outbursts don't help alleviate the film's overly oppressive nature, but taken on its own it's a strong album.
It's hard to pick out a particular standout track as it's all very subtle and works best as a whole, but I'll run through most of them to give you a feel for how the music plays out.
'Wasteland' opens the album and sets the tone with a sparse arrangement, combining subtle light bells with minimal, throbbing bass drums and long drones. Hints of vocal drones come in later on to add a haunting quality. 'Boiler Room' follows with shimmering ghostly effects mixed with industrial sounds and an intense rhythm hiding in the background then breaks into a light piano motif briefly at the end. This fairly abrupt changing of pace happens quite often during the album, but works due to the atmosphere-driven style.
'Red Rain' brings in a more 'up-front' dark beat, to raise the tempo and intensity, but 'Sea of Blood', which follows, is a longer, more ambient and discordant track. 'The Music Box' lightens the tone a bit soon after. It's still ambient and fits the album but isn't quite as dark and brooding. 'Pain' grabs your attention with some intense drumming, but this dies down into further atmospherics. 'Empty Hands' introduces a kind of tribal beat in its first half. This beat is used again in a couple of subsequent tracks, bringing the listener out of the eerie trance much of the score puts you in.
'The Little Fire Engine' is a touching track which utilises a sweet music box melody played as though at a distance, mixed with some beautifully sparse strings for added poignancy. It provides a much needed dose of human emotion amongst the cold dark recesses of much of the album. One of the other more memorable tracks for me was 'Leviathan'. Ghostly yet sharp distortion runs through it for an admirably creepy first half and then viscous drumming rips through and grabs you by the throat. 'Wreckage' similarly builds the distortion to disturbing levels at one point, making it one of the more frightening tracks.
'A New Life' almost promises hope as the title suggests, with a lighter touch than most tracks and a rhythmic pulsing that suggests a Sigur Ros-like uplift, but an underlying sense of melancholy is ever present and the rhythm soon dies down to end on a long sustained high pitched note that drifts away into the ether.
The reintroduction and clearer focus on the vocal drones in some of the last tracks add a haunting flavour to the climactic moments, but the final track, 'From Inside', is full and driving, helping to draw the listener back in as the album draws to a close.
All in all I liked the soundtrack to From Inside quite a lot. Being a fan of dark ambient music it worked well for me as a standalone album, so any problems I had with the film were left behind. It is a little schizophrenic in its mood changes, but this is something common to listening to soundtracks without the visual accompaniment. I'd certainly recommend this to anyone with a taste for music that is minimal, bleak and moody.
From Inside - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out now on CD and digital download.
To buy the soundtrack click on this link.
Listen to samples