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Shadowbuilder: Temp Score to Final Score

by Roman Deppe

Before you folks skip this daily column with the words "I am not interested in movies I never heard of," let me tell you something about it...

Bram Stoker's SHADOWBUILDER is the story of a powerful demon (or better yet, the devil), who is able to destroy the world during a certain eclipse of the sun by killing a young child. The Shadowbuilder is a creature who lives on the life-energy of its victims, and similar to Count Dracula he sucks it out of them--if light hits their bodies they fall apart to ashes.

Now it is shortly before such an eclipse and the Shadowbuilder appears in a small city, somewhere in the USA. On his search for the child his victims infect more and more people and the darkness, he brings makes the people go insane and go berserk. It is the job of a priest (who has seen one too many John Woo films), the aunt of the young boy and her boyfriend and a crazy scrap dealer to prevent the eternal darkness...

Well, the movie is such a wild mix of a lot of movies as the story sounds like... DRACULA, WARLOCK: THE ARMAGEDDON, NEEDFUL THINGS, THE OMEN, even THE FOG (6 people have to die)... but although it doesn't tell anything new or really original it is nevertheless an above-the-average Horror-Fantasy-movie, filled with impressive special-effects, good atmosphere, strong directing and photography and a cool cast, including Michael Rooker as the gun-fighting priest ("I kick ass for the lord" from Braindead comes to mind) and Tony Todd as the crazy Scrap Dealer. I don't know whether it is already released in the States, but it came out on video recently here in Germany.

The movie is not a big-budget project, but it looks much more expensive than it probably was, thanks to the director, who was an ILM-wizard for several years. It is also nice that the movie relies more on atmosphere than on gore, so you can use your imagination, which is very rare nowadays.

Okay, but what has that to do with FSM? Well, I attended Shadowbuilder's world premiere last year at the Fantasy Film Festival, but they couldn't finish it in time, so still there was one scene missing and its music wasn't written yet. So, what was shown was the version the composer got, filled with all the temp-tracks composers are afraid of. I can't say how distracting these temporary cues must be for composers, but they were very distracting for me in the beginning, because I knew all of them so well. Just think of this: The Main Titles start and you get HELLRAISER's main titles, suddenly switching into the electronic music of the same score, than some outbursts of "Ave Satani" from THE OMEN, switching into SPECIES' chase music. It seemed almost no one noticed in the audience, but it was hard to keep myself from paying attention to the music. It was very interesting to hear how closely to the movie the music got edited. There was almost no cue played in its original length, mostly only some bars, switching from one score and style to another. So, the so-to-speak-main theme was HELLRAISER and tons of choral music from THE OMEN and NEEDFUL THINGS and it was obvious that the makers were very into Christopher Young's music.

I couldn't wait to see the movie in its finished form and to hear what the composer came up with and now almost one year later the opportunity was there...

The credits looked interesting at the premiere, the music was credited to a Guy Zerafa and in the end credits it was mentioned that the main theme was some kind of French hymn, and some featured musicians were listed, so it looked as if the movie would get kind of chamber music score or even ethnic, but as it turned out Guy Zerafa's score didn't end up in the movie. Whether his score was rejected or whether he just hadn't had time I don't know, but finally the music was composed by Eckart Seeber, surely a German composer.

So, what's his music like? Well, it is half the music you expect from a movie like this and half not. It is basically an orchestral score with lenghty choral passages. The choir is actually used to such a big extent, that I thought many times, that less could have been more. Seeber wrote a very catchy 6 note-main theme, that sounds (as much of the music) very in the style of movies in the '50s and '60s, kind of music for all those big roman empire-movies. Seeber is certainly inspired by the older composers like Rosza. It is actually one of the most memorable themes I heard in recent times, that captures the mood of a quiet, peaceful town and tragic fate pretty well, but it is also used in the fast horror-passages, adding a lot of tension and even gives the young boy some heroism.

Seeber seemed affected by the temp tracks only in the very beginning, where some priests sacrifice a man to resurrect the demon. Here you can hear the electronic sound-sculptures from HELLRAISER. When the action begins you can hear the chase music from SPECIES, but interestingly only in terms of instrumentation, not in melodies, so the hammering electronic piano appears during the shootouts. After that Seeber introduces his main theme and a dark theme for the gun-fighting priest, which unfortunately is not really used again. When the Shadowbuilder begins his evil work the choir comes in extensively. Only in the cemetery scene (where they find a dead body) Seeber falls back to the temp-track; the choir is very similar to THE OMEN, but right after that he completely ignores the temps for the rest of the movie and wrote his non-temped choir material. I have to admit that in these scenes the temps worked so well, that there was almost no other way how to score these scenes. He later even brings in some quite unusual things for a Hollywood product, some high, scratching strings and a (little bit irritating) singing female solo singer (his wife(?) Cristine Seeber) over the full choir (like Beltrami used the solo singer in MIMIC and SCREAM, but here with Latin lyrics). These aspects make the score sound more kind of European than American and I assume it is because Seeber is from Europe. It is nice to see, that the makers and the composer tried to do something different within their given limitations and that the makers were not insisting to copy the temp-tracks, which worked very well all the way through.

BUT: This was the first time I ever thought that a movie was spotted badly. There is way too much music in it (of the movie's 100 minutes, there is certainly 90 minutes of score) and many scenes didn't need music. Often the music stops only for 10 seconds and then comes in again, what makes irritating holes. It's not like a pause of the music: the piece stops (to add some tension maybe), and ten seconds later another piece begins with no connection to the former one. It sounds as if they let Seeber score the whole 100 minutes and took the music out at the places where they wanted to (and had no knowledge of music, anyway).

Nevertheless, it is a very good score for a good movie, that probably has no one seen. The score may not be highly original, but it is very effective in the movie, can stand on its own and would please every horror-fan and choir-buff. But I doubt there will be a CD release (although I think it was recorded in Europe...).

If anyone has any information about Eckart Seeber and where this score was recorded or what happened to Guy Zerafa's score or just information in general on these subjects (or questions), please write in.

MailBag@filmscoremonthly.com

(Roman Deppe can be reached at roman.deppe@metronet.de)


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