Horror. It’s possible no other genre of film relies so much on its sound, and especially its music. The wrong type of score can kill a horror film straight away, whilst the right kind can enhance it in unlimited ways. But there seems to be a disconnect with some horror scores when they are taken from the film and presented on their own as an album. This is certainly the case with THE LAST EXORCISM PART II.
First of all, the film and the record. THE LAST EXORCISM PART II is a sequel to THE LAST EXORCISM (the penultimate exorcism?), which was a big hit in 2010. I have seen neither film, but by all accounts they are possession horrors similar to THE EXORCIST and its ilk. The score – by horror veteran Michael Wandmacher – certainly follows the style of the music from William Friedkin’s film in some places, as which I guess is a given for the subgenre. But it also means it’s not an easy score to listen to.
Wandmacher’s music is undoubtedly creepy. Much of it is based on riding the line between music and sound design (a marriage that has been popular in horror for decades), and as such the record is full of eerie voices, ethereal and ghostly effects, piercing strings, the Penderecki “insectoid” string movements. There are also moments when you hear footsteps, the “something’s happening” rising crescendo, scratching strings and percussion that sounds like a very heavy door is being smashed in.
There are melodies, but they are sparse. We do get some solo piano, quite foreboding at times, and some great string work. There are moments of happiness, of freedom, and seemingly of tragedy. And then the piano goes slightly off-kilter and we suddenly get quite unsettled. The score is certainly good at doing that, at creating an atmosphere and then jumping out, so that by the time it really gets up to speed and we get some big heavy strings and pulsating melodies, we’re creeped out already so it’s a natural gearshift. However it does take a while to get there.
Like I said earlier, this is not a particularly easy listening experience, at least not to me. It certainly follows the cues of a horror film, and as such it ultimately goes some way to aurally recreating that experience, but doesn’t always make it enjoyable. It’s also probable that this is also due to the length of the album, which at a running time of seventy minutes I would assume contains the complete score.
THE LAST EXORCISM PART II is a good work, it’s creepy, it’s tense, and it does pull you in. However the album is too long, and while the slow burn probably works well in the film, on record you begin to lose interest occasionally because it goes on for a while. But I imagine putting it into a thirty-five to forty minute program would really ramp it up.
Words: Charlie Brigden