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|CD Reviews: Land of the Dead and Hostage|
|Posted By: David Coscina, Christopher Jenkins on October 4, 2005 - 9:00 PM|
CD Reviews: Land of the Dead and Hostage
Land of the Dead ***
REINHOLD HEIL & JOHNNY KLIMEK
Varèse Sarabande 302 066 666 2
36 tracks - 74:12
George A. Romero's long-awaited follow-up to his 1985 zombie munchfest Day of the Dead sports a
percussive, electronic soundtrack by German synthesists Reinhold Heil
and Johnny Klimek.
The duo, who also scored One Hour
Photo, provide the requisite screeching and morose marches
associated with the zombie subgenre. Like many of fellow composer Hans
Zimmer's endeavors, this score is an ensemble effort, featuring three
The score, realized entirely in Apple's Logic Audio program, is the
least melodic of Romero's zombie scores, yet it exudes an industrial,
relentless foreboding that suits the film's dark storyline. The best
tracks are "Saving Slack," a hybrid assault of relentless drums and
strings; "Mall Slaughter, " an adrenal rush of techno/ambient stylings,
and "To Canada," seven minutes of end credit music with a cool
electro-rock flavor that would make for a good single. So if you're
seeking something edgier than the normal summer soundtrack fare --
something more along the lines of Graeme Revell or Tangerine Dream --
you may want to check this album out. --
Hostage *** 1/2
20 tracks - 61:41
As a film, Hostage suffers
from erratic pacing, characters who seem overtly archetypal (especially
the villains), and an abrupt resolution that neatly yet unbelievably
ties up all the loose ends. If one weren't listening closely, they
might be distracted by the film's shortcomings and miss composer
Alexandre Desplat's unique approach to a tired genre. Instead of
playing up the action (a technique Michael Kamen almost pioneered with
his seminal Die Hard score
back in the late '80s) Desplat tackles this film with a lyrical,
melodic, theme-driven ideology that underlines the angst of Bruce
Willis' character and the urgency of the matters at hand.
Desplat's main theme is a simple yet effective piece featuring a
soprano (or a boy singing falsetto), with cascading piano figures and
foreboding strings that play a Herrmannesque progression. It's almost
an elegant statement yet still retains an air of mystery for the
thriller. Because most of the characters are youths, this theme touches
upon their fragility. The secondary theme is more percussive-driven
that underlines the martial dread that ensues.
The score develops with nice coloristic effects such as staccato
flutes, col legno strings, and the occasional gurgling synth line that
might remind some of Elfman's electronic work on MIB or Hulk. The composer even employs the
gamelon for added flair on tracks like "The Watchman" and "House on
But the key element here isn't the application of sounds but rather the
construction of the music and how it's applied to the film. Sure, there
are the minimalist figures abounding in many cues. But they are
supporting lines, while Desplat showcases melodies, even if they are
restatements of the main theme with minor variations. And even his
shorter musical gestures are more phrase-driven than functional
motives, thus allowing the listener to latch onto these moments to make
a visceral connection.
The only criticism that can be made toward this operatic approach is
that it makes some scenes a little melodramatic. For the broad strokes
that the comic book film genre allows, this is almost mandatory, but
for most North American filmgoers, this sweeping melancholic music can
be a bit too much to take in a film centered in urban reality.
Overall, Hostage is a treat
for film music fans as it presents itself as an incredibly cogent
listening experience apart from its filmic source. It has wonderful
classical licks such as the arpeggiating violins in "The Negotiation,"
and the Irish jig inspired rendition of Tommy's theme on "A Secret
Place," complete with Celtic harp and penny whistle. There's also
effective modernist writing on "Crawl Space," with bitonal chord
string/piano unisons and fervent string figures.
Apart from its occasional similarity to other famous film scores,
Desplat's Hostage is a
delight to listen through. If there is any justice, this style of film
scoring will overshadow the noisy, wall- to-wall migraine-inducing
electronic histrionics that have become the status quo for action
scoring in Hollywood. For film score fans yearning to hear anything
different, this one might very well be the ticket.
-- David Coscina
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