Killing Mr. Griffin

Film released by Barnholtz Entertainment / Artisan DVD (1997)

Mark: "Don't take advice from victims. Listen to survivors."

No score soundtrack available.

Music clip one, 1'10" (552Kb at 64kbps) [0:53'15"]
Music clip two, 0'54" (426Kb at 64kbps) [0:59'11"]
Music clip three, 2'04" (975Kb at 64kbps) [1:25'54"]
N.B. All clips contain dialogue, and may be cues by Robert J Kral rather than Chris Beck. Any that are confirmed to be by Mr Kral will be removed immediately.


A television film adaptation of Lois Duncan's novel, attempting to tackle how pressure can cause children to do desperate things - pressure from peers, teachers, parents and one's self. Students play a violent prank on an overly strict school teacher, but the most popular (and most pressured) is playing for higher stakes. Zero plot surprises in retrospect (the killer is unmasked to the audience as he committs his crime), except that the DVD cover and writing credit suggested that we might be in for horror rather than heavy-handed moralising.

Christophe Beck delivers this score with additional music from Angel composer Robert J Kral. The result sets the style well within the 'efficient melancholy' set of films which have included Skulls 2, Caracara, Bone Daddy, etc. We are treated to a melodic theme (see clip 3) whose rising semi-tone characteristic allows it recognition throughout the score; the more 'dangerous' scenes employ synthesized atmospheric sounds reminiscent to work on Buffy and Angel; finally there is use of military percussion for the occasional action cue.

Webmaster's additional 1

Rough transcription of clip 3 for piano solo.
.gif / .midi

Webmaster's additional 2: cue commentary

DVD counter readings are approximate. The cue commentary below shows how the composers maintain the serious and threatening tone of the movie, whilst keeping empathy with the main anti-heroine character, Susan, with snippets of the main melodic theme.

0:00'21"-0:00'28" Viola and piano delicately sketch the main theme outline (the following pajama party scene is accompanied by pop music)

0:08'17"-0:08'28" Brief scene link. Minor key, piano, emphasises a rising semitone. A fore-taste of the main theme.

0:21'23"-0:22'02" Trumpet (with piano and strings) performs a more complete version of the main theme. The rising semi-tone is again important.

0:23'58"-0:25'32" Viola stresses the semi-tone, but this time in a falling motion, as Susan is brought to tears by her teacher's criticism. Oboe (doubled by strings) and harp return to the rising semi-tone movement, but end by returning to the falling direction.

0:25'33-0:26'04" After the tortuous lesson the music takes a nastier turn as Susan is now convinced to act as decoy for the kidnap operation. Low synths, with a scene-ending sting reminiscent of Buffy cliff-hangers.

[0:30'02"-0:31'07" Pop diegetic mood music as a prelude to love-making. Possibly an existing track, and doesn't sound like Chris Beck's scoring style.]

0:31'49"-0:35'30" The plot is planned and hatched. Anticipatory underscore (synth/percussion - slow), shifting into more melodic territory (wind solo and strings call out the rising semi-tone) but with the former underscore still present. A fast-but-hesitant piano motif (upping the tension a little) takes over from the wind/string line as Griffin and Susan approach his car. At 0:33'03" nasty synth noises (inc white noise-related samples) ramp the tension further as the kidnappers close in. This pauses for a scene with the girls of the kidnapping group waylaid elsewhere - the synth/percussion underscore is deepened by low double-bass notes. Immediately before Griffin is taken, high dissonant string synth "harmonics" softly add to the tension. A mix of dissonant synths and distressing samples accompany Griffin's kidnapping. During this (at 0:34'55") a tiny echo of melody on piano can be heard. The kidnappers (minus Susan) make their gettaway at 0:35'18", still with 0:34'55"'s mix, but with more movement from percussion and from the fast (but not now hesitant) piano motif.

0:35'32"-0:35'56" A three-note theme (on clarinet then flute/strings) over piano and percussion, accompanying the kidnappers on their journey to their secluded lair with the captive Mr Griffin.

0:41'10"-0:41'49" Darkly atmospheric synths and static strings underscore the pivotal moment when kidnapping leader Mark discovers Griffin's heart pills.. and secretly pockets them.

0:42'52"-0:43'24" Double-bass and synth percussion return with a hint of the samples from the kidnapping, as Griffin is left while the kidnappers dash off for the basketball game.

0:45'36"-0:46'41" Piano figuation with synth/orch punctuation - an "action" cue as Susan and the kidnapper she fancies dash to the lair to fetch Mr Griffin. Punctuations become more insistent and synth atmospherics creep in as Griffin is discovered to be missing from his chair. The beat stops, brass enter, and the cue ends with a rushing synth glissandi as the man is found dead.

0:48'25"-0:49'41" A falling string semi-tone opens this scene as the student kidnappers reflect on the "unexpected turn" of events. The double-bass, quiet percussion, hints of piano, and finally a slow rising clarinet semi-tone, as the students start panicking. Effective underscore only.

0:53'15"-0:54'46" Timpani beats kick off the students' resolution to secretly bury the dead teacher. One of the film's more extended cues, this features a lengthy minor key string melodic line. [CLIP 1, starts after the timpani beats]

0:54'52"-0:56'27" The main theme returns (oboe, trumpet, flute and piano share parts of the melody, with piano accompanying chords eventually supported by strings) as Susan announces her epitaph: "Love him or hate him, noone made an impression like Mr Griffin." This is the most extended example of the theme, and has the edge over the end credits music in that the DVD doesn't cut it off mid-phrase.

0:59'11"-1:00'04" Creeping dissonance of static strings, with ultra-subtle atmospherics and piano. Susan is questioned and lies to Mrs Griffin. Very effective tension-builder. CLIP 2

0:04'05"-1:05'27" Heavy atmospherics accompany Mark's telephone conversation with his pressurising dad, whilst viewing the video he made of the kidnapping (including the incriminating heart pill-hiding)

[1:05'27"-1:07'26" 'I will survive'. Susan's nightmare.]

1:11'21"-1:12'30" The main theme is given a synth-atmospheric eerie accompaniment. At 72'10" the piano figuration enters to wind up Mark's twisting of Susan's epitaph for his own electioneering ends - this helps to ground her realisation of what kind of a person Mark really is and starts her suspicions about his involvement in the death of Mr Griffin.

1:14'09-1:14'42" A string-accompanied piano theme representing Susan's father's love for his daughter. It ends with the rising semi-tone, though, as Susan draws away from his embrass to run to the student group.

1:16'57"-1:17'33" Atmospherics from 1:04'05" mirror Mark's earlier musing over his incriminating video footage.

1:19'42"-1:20'46" Atmospherics from 1:04'05" mix with 0:59'11"'s static string dissonances as Mark's guilt is exposed to Susan via his video tape. At 1:20'39" piano figurations (with orchestra) give the score more urgency as Susan is startled out of her stunned reaction and swipes the tape.

1:21'05"-1:21'59" More creeping dissonance (with strings now wavering over their notes, giving an even more chilling effect) as Mark discovers his tape is missing. Synth percussion, piano etc. return us to the more urgent score as Susan escapes and Mark - an abrupt end to the cue as Mark catches up with Susan.

1:22'19"-1:23:41" Griffin's car drives off: Susan at gunpoint; and the others arrive and drive after them. Synth percussion, hints of the piano figuration and the rising semi-tone (esp on clarinet) as Mark and Susan confront as she drives. After a crescendo the music ends with Susan crashing the car.

1:24'27"-1:25'00" The "guilt" string dissonance re-enters as the incriminating video-tape is played to Mark's friends. At 84'36" another in the group attacks Mark and the gun goes off - brief synth/perc to liven up the action. Over this a high brass/string manipulation of the main theme wails.

1:25'54"-1:28'26" The main theme on strings/clarinet sorrowfully accompanying Mark's ending. Piano chords enter [CLIP 3] as Susan confesses to the police. This accompanies a straight viola rendition of the tragic main theme (you cannot negotiate good and bad). Trumpet also handles the theme, with strings and oboe added later. A more relaxed ending ("she's not my little girl anymore"), shifting into the major key. Along with 0:54'52", this is one of the film's most sustained cues, although again the focus is on the dialogue.

1:28'31"-1:29'15" End credits music. Unfortunately the ending is poorly edited, and cues like 1:25'54" are more satisfying minus dialogue.

Film music credits

**Opening credits**
Music by Christophe Beck
**End credits**
Music editor: Nino Centurion
Music Supervisor: Jonathan Palmer
Additional music by Robert J Kral
[none credited, although some used diegetically in the film]