UK composer Mica Levi's extraordinary score for Colombian-Ecuadorian writer/director Alejandro Landes’ tense and deeply unhinged thriller Monos brilliantly utilises only a smattering of sounds to craft a world of deepening dread as chaos reigns amongst a wild troupe of teenage bandits who have rituals, guns and a panic stricken hostage.
Deep in the remote mountains of somewhere that might be South America, a ragtag band of barely adolescent soldiers belonging to a shadowy guerrilla organisation are occupying a derelict ruin, brandishing guns and guarding Doctora (Julianne Nicholson), an American engineer, hostage. While awaiting orders that may never come, they run drills, tend to a cow and do what anarchic teens everywhere do – get high, have sex, and hang out. But as a fracturing of power and a breakdown of loyalties in the group begins to take hold, the lethal combination of loaded guns and zero supervision or accountability works out exactly as well as you’d imagine, and an extraordinary descent into a form of unhinged and surreal savagery, on steroids, unfolds.
For the soundtrack’s main theme Mica Levi uses a distinctive four-note whistle. Deceptively simple and devastatingly effective, this elemental childlike sound made from just cupping your hands together and blowing is just one of the techniques that makes her otherworldly score feel so central to this feral and furious drama. It’s a uniquely poetic and potent head trip that will leave you gasping.