Just as remakes of ’70s TV horror fare are now fair game for the cineplex, so are B-level horror films from the ’80s. Anyone who knows me, knows that I basically checked out through a good portion of the mid-80 (at least with regards to pop culture in film), so I’ve never seen the original FRIGHT NIGHT. But against my better judgment (I really don’t like to be scared), I was dragged along to a preview screening of the remake.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Granted, I could have done without the 3D muddying up what was already a dimly lit film. But Colin Farrell exudes menacing sexuality as the head of a 400-year-old vampire coven stationed underground on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Anton Yelchin proves once again what a promising presence he is onscreen and David Tennant brings some much needed drunken levity to the proceedings. I even jumped out of my seat a couple of times, screaming like a 12-year-old girl. (It’s hard to scream “butchly.”) But the film would not be have as much fun—nor nearly as effective—without Ramin Djawadi‘s bold, in-your-face score.
As the camera pans over the Las Vegas suburbs, Djawadi works in three major pieces of thematic material in the main titles. The first is a Gothic organ theme of four sixteenth notes that turn upon each other before settling on a series of eighth notes on the tonic. Tremolo strings extract the interval of a second as the basis for the main theme, which is then taken up in the basses. A driving ostinato in the lower strings drives the exciting opening to a close.
Much of the film is scored along standard contemporary lines. Violins skitter across the surface of our nerves. Tremolos, col legno and sul ponticello playing, harmonics, pizzicato, and glissandi in the strings fight against the belching brass. Major visual and musical set pieces like “Jerry’s Date” and “No House, No Invitation” are suitably frightening both in the picture and on their own through the craft of Djawad’s writing.
Reverbed vocal elements create the proper unsettling mood. Chords swell and die. But in cues like “400 Years of Survival,” a yearning secondary theme in the strings gives the characters some flesh and blood. The album closes with the end credits suite, bookending the score with a reprise and extension of Djawadi’s memorable main titles, with a little harpsichord thrown in for good Gothic measure.
Djawadi infuses his typical Remote Control sound with real, ahem, bite. As to be expected, the score is processed and produced to a fare-thee-well, with the score dialed up to play a vital role in the film. Electronics deliberately fight for dominance over the acoustic instruments, but in this case it helps ratchet up the tension. The rock elements of cues like “How to Kill a Vampire,” in which the electric guitar takes a primary musical role, make an impact through their judicious spotting.
Djawadi’s mixture of Gothic and contemporary film scoring elements works surprisingly well, especially in the film. There’s nothing particularly new here in the way of experimentation or pushing the envelope musically. But Djawadi’s score creates a palpable sense of terror throughout the film, keeping our nerves on edge and away from how ridiculous the whole thing is. If nothing else, Djawadi deserves kudos for building beyond his typical RC brand and for creating one of the most insinuating, creepy main themes of the year.