Published on December 23rd, 2021 | by Craig Silliphant


Snake River – The Phantom Carriage Live Score – NYE at The Roxy Theatre

Snake River will play their score to The Phantom Carriage, live at The Roxy Theatre on New Year’s Eve. Chris Sleightholm tells us about it.

It’s the 100th anniversary of Victor Sjostrom’s The Phantom Carriage, which is a story of a man whose sins are chasing him down, ultimately turning into something of a redemption for the unlikable protagonist, David Holm. When the film concludes, with its vaguely happy ending, we know that his actions directly caused the death of Sister Edith whom he infected with tuberculosis, as well as to the incarceration of his brother for murdering someone while he was drunk. This is all set against the background of the Scandinavian legend, that the last person to die on New Year’s Eve will be condemned to be the coachman of death’s carriage, and collect the souls of those who pass that year, and of course, David is in rough shape as the clocks ticks closer to midnight.

Through a series of flashbacks, and over the course of a few New Year’s Eves we see David’s descent into alcoholism. He has no regard for the effects his actions have on people. I found this unsympathetic menace of a character very appealing, and as fans of our band will know, our songs often center on my own similarly unlikable character Reginald McKruski.

We’d been talking about doing our own score to a silent film for a while, and then we saw The Shooting Guns do theirs for Nosfaratu, and then The Garrys do Haxan.  When we were able to start playing together again we thought that it was a perfect time to time to complete this unofficial trilogy of Saskatchewan bands scoring a silent. Immediately I knew The Phantom Carriage was for us, it’s quick-moving scenes and austere yet potent imagery made it perfect. A lot of people are asking us why we’d do this, and I say, why not?

Like many others I became familiar with this film through Ingmar Bergman’s outspoken approval of it. He loved it so much so that he cast Sjostrom in what might be his most well known work, Wild Strawberries in 1957. The Phantom Carriage was such an influence on Bergman that he said he’d watch it watch it once a year to make sure he was still making the type of film he wanted to be making.

In all the uncertainties we’re feeling about performing a 104 minute set of brand new material in sync with a 100-year old film one thing is certain, Sjostrom would not like our score to his film, strictly because most of the instruments didn’t even exist in his lifetime, and would therefore would sound like a chaos to him. 

Things to watch out for:

Georges with a noose – in one of the flashbacks we see a very cool foreshadowing moment, where David Holm’s drinking buddy Georges is telling them about the carriage and the folktale, and as he’s saying this the hanging light behind him looks like a noose, which is deeply symbolic. No spoilers…

The axe on the door – no point in explaining where this scene has been directly quoted, it’s just one of the most famous horror movies of all time. You’ll know it when you see it.

The chipped cup – right after the intense axe scene we see David Holm go and get a cup of water for his wife. This can seem like an innocuous detail, but this film is in black and white and in order for this detail to even show up on film would have taken a lot of work. I take this chipped cup to symbolize that David Holm is a flawed vessel, here he’s seen trying to help his wife, but there’s an obvious damage in him.

You can learn more or buy tickets at Doors open New Year’s Eve at 7 PM and the show starts at 8 PM.


The first Snake River record came out in 2012. It wasn’t a band then – I made a record where I played everything. Over the years we’ve added and subtracted members, settling on John De Gennaro (guitar), Dustin Gamracy (drums), Whistlin’ Jeff M (bass), and Amber Pb (viola), and obviously myself, Chris Sleightholm (guitar, vocals). We’ve put out six records, the most recent being Lost Album (2021). 

You can hear Snake River on their bandcamp page.

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is a D-level celebrity with delusions of grandeur. A writer, critic, creative director, editor, broadcaster, and occasional filmmaker, his thoughts have appeared on radio, television, in print, and on the web. He is a juror on the Polaris Music Prize and the Juno Awards. He loves Saskatoon. He has horrible night terrors and apocalyptic dreams.

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