by Dan Goldwasser
Beyond Records recently worked out some sort of a deal with Artisan Entertainment, resulting in a recent slew of horror scores from the Artisan catalog. In this article, we'll take a look at some of them, just in time for Halloween.
For the sequel to the home-video hit Wishmaster, composer David Williams takes on the mystical legend of the Djinn (i.e. Genie) with a taut and suspenseful underscore. In Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, the Djinn (Andrew Divoff) is released from his gem-prison by a thief, and this time he has a mission: collect 1001 souls and connect his world with ours. Or something like that. Williams has a nice mystical motif that makes an appearance in "The Robbery", and is sprinkled throughout the score. For the most part, the score is purely background music, providing just the right level of material to keep us interested in the film. There's even a quasi-romantic theme ("Kiss", "End of Djinn") amidst all the destruction and mayhem that the Djinn wreaks. Williams certainly has the ability to provide interesting underscores, as heard in The Prophecy, Phantoms and Supernova, but until he breaks out of the horror genre, his true talent might be locked away, just like the Djinn.
Candyman was a great urban-legend horror film, with a wonderfully frightening atmosphere that just creeped me out. Adding to that level of horror was Philip Glass's equally unnerving score. Glass contributed music to the second film, but wasn't involved in the third film. Instead, Candyman 3: Day of the Dead had original music by Adam Gorgoni. The first film took place in Chicago, the second in New Orleans, and now this third film brings the hook-and-bees villain to Los Angeles. Gorgoni's score starts out with an urban groove, and had me worried for a minute that it just be a hip-hop laden score. However, I was pleasantly surprised when a tender and haunting piano melody came out of that groove. That tender piano motif aside, though, the rest of the score is sadly unmemorable, and laden with a bunch of orchestra hits and tense horror scenarios. A nice moment in "Are You OK" brings the score to another level momentarily, but the abundance of synth and atmosphere throughout the score outweigh the nicer moments, and make this album a tough one to recommend.
Daniel Licht is another composer seemingly "trapped" in the world of horror scores. However, I have to say it suits him just fine. While the film didn't do very well at the box office (I can't remember how long it was in theaters for, but it was short), Soul Survivors had an interesting premise and a rather enjoyable score to boot. After surviving a car accident, Cassandra (Melissa Sagemiller) is visited by spirits - and her friends try to get her to explore the dark side. Director Steve Carpenter went for a dreamlike quality to the film, and Licht captures that in the score just perfectly. A tender and emotional main theme stands out, even though it reminds me just a bit of something Christopher Young might write (incidentally, Licht took over for Young on the project). Nonetheless, the dreamlike quality is shattered only by traditional orchestral horror cues, accentuated with chorus and atmosphere. "Annabell is Dead" is a nice example of a track that will creep anyone out, with a nice bit of echoing chorus and orchestra. A soft a capella in "The Woods" is a stand-out track, and the album is capped off with a dark rock song, "The Other Side".
Also released by Beyond Records - and just in time for the Halloween - is a compilation called "Pure Horror". The album includes selected tracks from the three albums mentioned above, as well as James Newton Howard's score to A Stir of Echoes, Carter Burwell's score to Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, and one track from The Blair Witch Project. Howard's stuff stands out on the album in such a way to completely overshadow the other cues. If you want a sampling from all the scores mentioned, then getting this is definitely one option. But it would probably just be easier to buy A Stir of Echoes - you'd probably enjoy it more. As I mentioned, there is one cue from The Blair Witch Project. Given that the only release from that film was the song album, "The Cellar" is a nice cue that highlights the sound design from that film (it's not really score). This is definitely one creepy album to put on your CD player, but it's tough to say which would scare you more - the music, or the content.