Earlier this year we all got to see Sam Raimi return to his roots. The man got his start with horror films in the 1980s. Films that hold up to this day and have legions of fans. The the latter half of the 1990s and the better part of this decade we saw Raimi get away from those roots, mainly with a trio of Spider-Man films. Rest assured, he still has the skills to ratchet back his blockbuster excesses and focus them into an old-school horror film that delivers the goods. While Raimi did a great job at the helm of this feature, one must recognize the role played by music in the film. In this case, it is the work of Christopher Young that must be recognized.
It is interesting to look back over Christopher Young's many credits and see a pattern similar to that of Sam Raimi, although not quite as drastic. Young has been closely tied to horror throughout his career, which in the 1990s and early part of this decade saw him work in other genres on notable films only to come back to the genre that appears to be dearest to his heart.
Look at his early work on films such as The Dorm that Dripped Blood, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, Trick or Treat, and Hellraiser. This gives way to the likes of The Man Who Knew Too Little, Rounders, The Country Bears, and this year's The Informers. However, he never became completely divorced from the genre, see The Grudge, The Uninvited, and of course Drag Me To Hell.
It is at this point that I wish I was more familiar with his catalog. Sadly, the only other score of his that I have given any real time to has been The Informers, which is decent, but saddled by an awful movie. By contrast there is likely a lot of work that will look better when next to that one. Fortunately, what we have in Drag Me to Hell is an absolutely fantastic score that only works to enhance a blast of a movie. Beyond that, it is a lot of fun to listen to on its own with its great use of melody, returning themes, soft passages, and thunderous crescendos.
Much like Raimi and his style of horror movie-making, Christopher Young takes his music to the edge of the abyss and then gleefully kicks it over into a frightening darkness where it is all right to be over the top. The score for Drag Me to Hell is unabashedly in your face and is not afraid to grab you by the ears and stare you dead in the eye to make sure you are paying attention. There have been times when I have listened to this late at night where I have begun to doze off only to be ripped back to consciousness by a big musical sting in the middle of a lull.
That's right, the score has infamous musical stings throughout. You know, the moments where they want you to jump so they ramp up the volume and speed. It is funny, seeing how effective they are when separated from the feature. They never feel gratuitous and perfectly blend in with the rest of the score.
Drag Me to Hell is filled with somber violin solos, big choral pieces, Gothic bombast, and not a little bit of restrained sweetness. The music covers a wide range of range of emotions while never letting you escape from its grasp.
What really helps the score come together is that one main theme piece that is introduced in the first track, "Drag Me to Hell." It is initially played by a solo violin with a full orchestra behind it, but it appears throughout and is played on a variety of instruments. It is a great theme that sticks with you throughout.
The score is so strong that I have a hard time picking out cues to focus on. They are all so good and it is so beautiful as a whole that I am not sure I should be bother.
It is a good thing I rarely listen to myself. Here are a few cues to focus in on: "Mexican Devil Disaster," "Tales of a Haunted Banker," "Lamia," "Ode to Ganush," "Auto-Da-Fe," and "Concerto to Hell." Seriously though, just put it on and press play.
Bottomline. This is one of the best scores I have listened to in awhile. Christopher Young has crafted a career highlight. So what if I am not so familiar with his catalog, just listen to this, it is fantastic!
* Drag Me To Hell (2:33)
* Mexican Devil Disaster (4:33)
* Tale of a Haunted Banker (1:52)
* Lamia (4:06)
* Black Rainbows (3:24)
* Ode to Ganush (2:23)
* Familiar Familiars (2:11)
* Loose Teeth (6:31)
* Ordeal by Corpse (4:35)
* Bealing Bells With Trumpet (5:12)
* Brick Dogs a la Carte (1:46)
* Buddled Brain Strain (2:51)
* Auto-Da-Fe (4:31)
* Concerto to Hell (5:59)