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Instinct (1999)
Music Composed and Produced by Danny Elfman
Orchestrations by Steve Bartek, David Slonaker, Edgardo Simone, Mark McKenzie
Conducted by Pete Anthony
Recorded and Mixed by Shawn Murphy

Label (Catalogue): Varese Sarabande, (VSD-6041)
Availability: Out-of-print
Purchasing options: Check secondary market at


(Original 1998 review by John Mullin) I'm actually kind of surprised to see such negative reactions to Instinct on the internet. I saw the film yesterday, and although I though it was kind of mediocre, the score, for me, was the best that Elfman has written in many years.

The first hour or so is somewhat boring. Apart from the opening titles (which admittedly didn't bowl me over), a very dissonant action cue, and a few choral bursts here and there, that first half of the film contains mostly quiet little cues that are fairly short and not so memorable. This, however, is dead on for Hopkins' character at that point in the film.

The score really gets going at about the half-way point in the film when Hopkins first flashes back to Africa. I'll be honest, the cue (which has got to be 5 or 6 minutes long) almost had me in tears. It was so beautiful. There are several more like it throughout the second part of the film, and all of them find an amazing blend of choir, samples, and a full-range orchestra. People talk about how breath-taking some of the shots of Africa are in the film. I don't think it's the photography, I think it's in the music. I wonder if this is how Elfman felt the first time he saw Africa.

There are a couple of other very good cues in the second part of the movie along with more of the violent ones which I found to be much less enjoyable. One cue that sticks out is a piece that plays behind a scene where Cuba Gooding Jr. is asking the prison inmates to rip up their cards (it'll make sense if you see the movie). I suspect that this cue is going to wind up in trailers and in television retrospectives a lot in the future. The music for the finale was great (even though the finale itself left a lot to be desired), and I really liked the end credit suite. The was a brief pseudo-love theme which reminded me of Article 99, but in a good way.

To sum it up, the movie wasn't too good. The music, however, is something that I'm excitedly waiting for on CD. At the very least, the second part of the score marks Elfman's return to extended film music writing. One of my problems with his three 1997 scores and his two 1998 scores is that they didn't contain any lengthy cues like his earlier work did. Men In Black and Flubber kind of did, but in both cases his job was more to create musical atmosphere than anything. Good Will Hunting, A Simple Plan, and A Civil Action were all very frustrating because Elfman never gave you the chance to fall in love with the music. Because the cues were so short, they never really developed into something you could really sink your teeth into like they did in, say, Edward Scissorhands.

Don't write this one off before you hear it. I don't recommend the movie, but the music is something I really fell in love with in the theater. I think it was very powerful and moving in the ways that Black Beauty, Sommersby and Edward Scissorhands are. The extended 'Africa' cues reminded me how good Elfman can be and why I ever started buying his albums in the first place. The soundtrack obviously doesn't contain all the music from the film, but I guess I'm hoping that it will focus on those lush moments rather than the sullen atmophere of the first half and the more bombastic cues of the second.

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Click for enlarged CD artwork
Click cover to enlarge
01. Main Title (3:18)
02. Into The Wild (8:48)
03. Back To The Forest (2:30)
04. Everybody Goes (3:06)
05. The Killing (8:56)
06. The Riot (2:10)
07. Escape (3:19)
08. End Credits (6:25)

Total Playing Time: 38'32

Danny Elfman's music at:

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