3 out of 5
Label: Waxwork Records
Produced by: Robert Fernandez (recording and mixing engineer)
My usual review process: I will formulate an opinion. If murky, I will re-experience whatever it is I’m reviewing – relistening to an album; rewatching key scenes from a movie; rereading key portions from a book or comic. Then, once I’ve settled on how I feel, I’ll generally dip into others’ reviews, and maybe some history on the creator if I’m completely in the dark. Based on what I find out there, I might go for a second round of the re-experiencing, to see if what I’ve newly read / learned has changed my take.
I knew I was in for a bit of this upon listening to Christopher Young’s ‘Drag Me To Hell’ score. I’m used to Raimi’s bouncier, more dramatic scores from the likes of Danny Elfman, and Joe LoDuca; I was expecting something similar on Drag Me To Hell, as the movie was a bit of a return to old school campy horror for the director. However, Young’s music is not that: it is, at points, utterly gorgeous, with its main piano theme that lilts throughout, and also strikingly frightening, with the discordant bombast of its opening track and the haunting jump scare tactics of something like ‘Lamia.’ Strings are a strong component – noted in most reviews as representing the Devil’s presence in the flick – and they are fittingly distressing in their use, and all of these various affects make for a great horror score.
This is all on display on the album’s A-side. The B- and C-sides, though, are inexpressive, where the preceding songs are all noteworthy.
I considered how difficult horror scores must be when they’re not just amped up slashers; trying to balance themes with sudden rushes of emotion while also scoring the “downbeats” in a fashion that doesn’t overwhelm them… it’s a game of subtlety, whereas a lot of movies can get by with having one or two moods they shift between.
The B-side admittedly starts off strongly, although it feels like it’s a rearrangement of cues used on the A-side’s ‘Mexican Devil Disaster.’ Thereafter, Young goes somewhat ambient with things, making a lot of interesting noises and very lightly drifting the piano theme back through, it’s just rather fleeting feeling; none of it hits like a full expression of an emotion, and, by comparison to our opening, it’s very subdued stuff. That said, man oh man is the end of ‘Loose Teeth’ intense and scary, serving as a reminder of the greatest moments on this soundtrack. If only it could be led into as effectively.
The C- and D-sides perform this in reverse. C- mimics the B-side: quite atmospherics; occasional peaks, and the D-side jumps right back in to greatness, with the creepy, triumphant Auto-Da-Fe and the masterful calamity of Concerto To Hell.
…While I’m pretty positive that I’m still not “mature” enough as an appreciator of soundtracks, I can’t deny my initial reaction to Christopher Young’s Dram Me To Hell, and how it didn’t change much, despite glowing reviews telling me that it probably should. It’s bookended by absolutely stunning moments, and then has an interesting, but none too immersive middle.