The days of music in horror films being crashes, bangs and other things that go bump in the night are most definitely over. In recent years the Horror film score has I suppose come into its own, with intelligent and even melodic scores being composed for movies that deal with the macabre and the sinister. We are a long way from the music of Hammer gothic horrors now and although the music for those classics were of a high standard and remain so to this day. I suppose as horror films have evolved and become more involved and also far more gruesome then it is only fitting that the music for them also has had to evolve and in effect become more complex and in many ways more frightening, I for one cannot ever forget the now famous theme for Dracula by James Bernard
and on seeing the movie for the first time and hearing that theme I was filled with a feeling of sheer dread, but looking at it now it is rather tame. But that I suppose can be said for any genre of film as time passes the genre evolves (not always for the better) but nevertheless it evolves it changes and in most cases becomes more shocking or more close to the edge of what is perceived to be acceptable. EVIL DEAD, is a good example of the horror film evolving I think, the original EVIL DEAD is by today’s standards tame in many ways and at times gets a laugh now when it shocked at the time of its release, but saying this the original was a darkly amusing piece of cinema that unfortunately fell foul of a certain Mrs Whitehouse and her happy band of pilgrims when they decided to pick on films that they deemed to be NASTIES ,in fact the original EVIL DEAD ended up being banned from being released on video tape in the United Kingdom for quite some time. Bruce Cambell starred in the original with directorial duties undertaken by Sam Raimi and it is these two gentlemen who have produced the re-make, the original contained a score by a newcomer at the time Joe LoDuca, who we all are well acquainted with nowadays. Five friends head up to a cabin in an isolated forest area and come across the book of the dead, now we all know if you find a book with the title Book of the dead it is probably not in the top ten best seller list and it is also probably best not to open it or even look at it, in fact just get back in the car and go home, BUT this is Hollywood right, lets just say things kind of get a little out of hand. The new version of the movie has more or less the same storyline but obviously because this is 2013 and not 1981, things go even more horribly wrong and there are certainly no comedic interludes within this re-make.
Buckets of blood and numerous gory scenes ensue in this gut wrenching, vomit soaked, hide behind the seat fest of blood letting and entrails flinging, which is underlined and enhanced by composer Roque Banos who provides the film with a soundtrack that is in a word PETRIFYING. Banos has worked on numerous films over the past decade or so and he is one of the reasons that I personally think that Spain and Spanish composers are producing some of the most interesting and original film music and have been doing so since films such as PANS LABYRINTH, THE DEVILS BACKBONE and more recently THE VALDAMIR INHERITANCE have been released. In fact I would go as far as to say that in years to come we will look back to this period of film scoring and refer to composers such as Banos, Navarette, Velezquez, Navarro and Battaler as the inovattors of film music because it these and their peers from Spain who are at this time creating such wonderful musical works for the cinema. Banos has created a score that is filled with some of the most frightening and unsettling sounds, musical and otherwise that I have come across for a number of years, this goes beyond Goldsmith, s foreboding AVE SANTANI from THE OMEN and out stabs and slashes Beltrami, s SCREAM scores and unequivocally out scares anything that James Bernard
ever wrote for Dracula, The Mummy or any amount of Zombies. I mention Goldsmith’s AVE SANTANI because Banos also utilizes choir within his score, but the use of choral phrases and also Latin chanting within horror scores has to be honest become common place and clichéd, it is something that composers have since THE OMEN kind of fell back on and included within their scores to purvey the atmosphere of evil being present. Banos however does not fall into the trap of sounding anything like THE OMEN with his choral passages instead they are almost guttural and evil sounding, oozing a malevolence that unsettles and creates an air of urgency that is harrowing. The composer utilizes a siren within the score, yes a siren, it sounds to me like an old hand wound siren, (but I cannot be sure) nevertheless this sound is one that has the desired effect it conjures up a feeling that there is something there that is not of this world and its also something that is certainly not that friendly in any way and its coming to get you. At one point in the opening cue, I, LL RIP YOUR SOUL OUT, the siren is joined by a male voice that weirdly seems to be of the same tone and pitch as the siren and together they hurtle headlong at breakneck speed chasing each other to see who can get to the end destination, moaning and wailing in unison creating a real sense of stress and even panic as they do so.
After this horrific crescendo a choir begins to chant, but as I have already said this is not the normal clichéd choral passage for a horror movie, it is frenzied and wild almost vicious in its overall sound. The chanting reaches its apex and comes to an abrupt halt, and then a relative calm ensues with a pleasant sounding piano solo which brings a brief respite to the proceedings. Track number two, SAD MEMORIES, is a continuation of calm with piano again acting as a soothing interlude but at the same time acting as a lull or musical tranquillity before a darker and more threatening mood is introduced by the composer, piano continues but one can just hear a change of mood is being ushered in with faint hissing strings gradually being introduced to the composition that finally give way to the siren which is the musical signature of the evil rearing its ugly head. Track three DON’T SAY IT, DON’T WRITE IT DON’T HEAR IT, is a plethora of evil and harrowing sounds, whispering is put to effective use as is a solo violin and piano to create an uneasy atmosphere, I think at this point I would agree with the track title, but the composer has other ideas as he introduces more whispering and a kind of dragging sound as if something is actually dragging itself along and heading for you, again strings swirl and low woodwind accompany creating a really virulent sound that is interrupted by sharp growling brass and percussion stab. Track number four DEMON POSSESSION is a wonderfully dark and tense cue, with the composer bringing into play, angry sounding brass that growls and snaps, underlined by swirling strings, frenzied pizzicato and rumbling percussive elements plus terrifying voices. For me Track number ten is the most inventive cue, NATALIE HUNTING, it begins with voices that moan wordlessly supported by strings and low woods, the introduction fades and segues into a calmer theme which is a reprise of the theme heard firstly at the end of track number one, this is short lived as strings begin to stir, hissing and swirling to infuse a more tense atmosphere, these rise and introduce the siren once again then brass and strings combine in a frenzied passage that is not musical in anyway but does introduce a driving string composition that sets in motion a dramatic and savage sounding piece that brings into play, more vicious brass, wailing siren and underlining strings. EVIL DEAD is not a score that contains lush or pretty themes it is filled to overflowing with tension and darkness but saying this there are a few moments of daylight that break through and add a calmness to the work, most notably this can be heard in COME BACK TO ME, and also variations of this calming theme can be heard in SAD MEMORIES and within a few other cues, even if but fleeting remnants of it.
Track number fifteen, THE PENDANT/EVIL TANGO is also worthy of a mention, a plaintive and almost melancholy theme opens the cue, with piano and faraway sounding horns combining with strings to convey an atmosphere of “all is well” but the moods very soon alters as we are treated to a darker and more unsettling rendition of the melody courtesy of choir and strings, which after a while heads into kind of macabre sounding tango with choir and strings throwing the theme between them. Roque Banos has created a score that is complex and also entertaining in a perverse kind of fashion, nevertheless he is to congratulated on a soundtrack that is deliciously dark and wildly inventive, let us hope that it will serve as an introduction to audiences outside of Spain and Europe and we will be hearing lots more of Banos. The compact disc is presented well by La La Land, great pics inside, notes and quotes courtesy of the director, composer and all three producers.
Read other recent reviews by John Mansell: Addio, Fratello Crudele
, The Dark Side of Light