Wendigo – Michelle DiBucci
"A reoccurring dream whose images are never far from the surface of the imagination." Michelle DuBucci
Published on January 27, 2014 | Filed under Audiodrome: Music in Film

Larry Fessenden’s 2001 chiller tells of an uptight city couple and their young son who travel to a remote cabin in snowbound upstate New York for a relaxing winter break. On the way there they hit a deer in the road and have a near violent confrontation with angry locals who had been tracking it. This altercation sets off a chain of events that may or may not be presided over by an ancient and dark force of nature that skulks through the surrounding forests…

With its submersion in childhood fantasy, creepy Native American folklore and nods to the likes of Algernon Blackwood’s weird tales, with their intrepid protagonists who find themselves at the mercy of the elements in shadowy places where myth merges with nature, Wendigo unravels as an unsettling psychological tale with dark fairytale trimmings. The suitably atmospheric score, courtesy of Michelle DiBucci, combines Native American percussion, chanting, flutes, strings and a children’s choir to haunting effect. DiBucci’s score works to highlight the tragic aspects of the story, as well as the creepiness, by weaving together a sparse and melodic tapestry that not only reflects the eerie mood of the film, but, with its utilisation of traditional Native American instruments and field recordings, sounds like it could emanate from the very earth itself.

With a background in avant garde theatre and concert music, Pittsburgh native DiBucci was taught piano and flute at a young age before she began to compose in her teens. Heavily involved with experimental theatre, she studied at Carnegie Mellon University and Juilliard. Her compositions often require musicians to perform on stage alongside actors, and as well as working with the likes of the Kronos Quartet, she has composed several operas, including Grail: A Portrait of Faust as a Young Man. DiBucci moved into composing for film in the early Eighties and provided additional music for George Romero’s Creepshow. When she came to compose the score for Fassenden’s Wendigo she wanted to create a collage of sound worlds that would “fade in and out of one another like a reoccurring dream whose images are never far from the surface of the imagination.”


DiBucci’s score evokes a sense of childlike and cautious wonder, fear and awe. It’s a mainly chilly affair, imbued with a little warmth by melodic string arrangements, which underpin the melancholia, and acoustic guitar work. Recordings of natural sounds such as howling winds and the call of a distant eagle enhance the haunting atmosphere and a contemplative mood is apparent throughout; particularly on tracks such as Ride to Stooky House, which is carried along by a haunting lullaby of glistening piano notes and cautious, hovering strings. The moody and sparse arrangements are typified by the likes of The Elder and Elder Drive-By, with their languidly mesmerising percussion, flutes and choirs of little voices swept along by spectral winds before morphing into arresting chants and wails. The whispering voices and spooky chimes of Shapeshifter transport the listener to a wintry forest in the dark of night, and things become darker still with slightly more obvious, though no less effective, horror fare, such as the shrieking strings of After the Murder and Sudden Storm, and the sinister, tribalistic drum beats of Wendigo Chases Miles. Lighter moments come courtesy of Drive into Town with its lively percussion, chimes and yearning vocals.

I’ll leave you with Shapeshifter

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

James is the author of Dario Argento (Kamera Books) and a monograph on The Company of Wolves (part of Auteur’s Devil’s Advocates series). He currently contributes to Exquisite Terror and Diabolique, and has also written for Film Ireland, Eye for Film, Little White Lies and The Quietus.
James Gracey

  • Marie Robinson

    Love this film and the score! Had no idea it was by a woman, very cool! Great article, James!

  • psynno

    Thanks for drawing attention to this James. Hope you can review the film again as it is an important horror film, in my opinion. Your comparison to Algernon Blackwood in Behind the Couch blog is spot on. It’s a very chilling setting, and the narrative is well handled. The score is amazing, great to hear it again.