“EVIL DEAD (2013)” (Original Soundtrack Review)
Now that the flurry of passionate yeas and nays flung over director Fede Alvarez’s EVIL DEAD remake has subsided, it’s a good time to take a deeper look at one of the more heralded changes Alvarez made with his DEAD interpretation: the score by composer Roque Baños (THE MACHINIST, SEXY BEAST), just released on compact disc from La-La Land records.
Joseph LoDuca’s Bernard Herrmann-influenced backing for the original film and its sequel were tuneful,l but hampered by thin instrumentation (LoDuca would rectify this with a bigger budget and a Danny Elfman assist on his stirring, heroic ARMY OF DARKNESS score). Banos’ new take is rich and full-throated from the start, with a huge orchestral punch backed by both male and female choral lines. There is a foreboding main theme (the album features a piano rendition of the theme as an isolated track) that recurs in various iterations throughout the score, and the rest of the music ranges from more subdued and ominous cues as the tension builds (the skittering, spidery “Three Ways Saving Her Soul”) to booming, high-tempo action with the climactic cues (“He’s Coming” and “Abominations Rising”—the latter culminating in a seventeen-second long cacophonic roar that would devour even the blackest metal riff). The quiet moments are here as well, with Baños’ lonely, sentimental piano piece best showcased during the track “Sad Memories.”
The CD album contains a score much-expanded compared to the digital version, including bonus tracks and an alternate take of “Come Back to Me”; good news for completists, although in all honesty the subtracted digital sequencing makes for a smoother listening experience. Some of the extra tracks were written in the service of the movie’s jump-scares—whispery passages that have you cranking the volume and then blast you with a loud, discordant stab (the track “Don’t Say It, Don’t Write It, Don’t Hear It,” for example). It’s a problem with many horror soundtrack albums, one that hurts them as a single cohesive listening experience. EVIL DEAD is no different in this regard, but it’s nothing a little judicious editing won’t fix.
Now to address the amusing, scattered reports pre-and-post DEAD screenings which had it that an air raid siren would blare over the soundtrack to warn jittery audiences that an instance of bloody insanity was poised to occur, like some William Castle or CANNIBAL GIRLS gimmick of yore. These reports were actually true in part; while not quite precisely cued to particular onscreen events, Baños does use a (European) police siren as the sound of what he calls in the album liner notes “true evil.” The effectiveness of the siren will be subjective and it falls well short of communicating true evil, but the wail, as it comes in different modulations and intensities, is definitely disconcerting—like the sound a crow would make while having its slowly head wrenched off.
The disc is packaged with a thick booklet of gooey film stills and brief notes on the collaborative process from Baños and Alvarez (and a couple of shemps named Bruce, Rob, and Sam throw in their two cents). The adjustments made by Alvarez to the Deadite mythos will be a matter of eternal debate, but there should be no argument when it comes to his excellent choice in music—Baños’ score is undeniably epic.