Home > Reviews > FRIGHT NIGHT – Ramin Djawadi

FRIGHT NIGHT – Ramin Djawadi

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

The original Fright Night was one of my favorite scary movies of the 1980s, a wonderfully grotesque comedy horror about a teenage movie nerd named Charley Brewster who finds out that a real live (dead?) vampire is living next door; in order to stop the evil vampire from taking over the neighborhood – and, more importantly, turning his cute girlfriend into a bloodsucking fiend – Charley teams up with aging TV anthology host and one-time vampire-hunter Peter Vincent to take on the forces of darkness. The 2011 remake is directed by Craig Gillespie (the creator of United States of Tara), and stars Anton Yelchin as Charley, David Tennent as Vincent, and Colin Farrell, hamming it up as the suave, but deadly Jerry Dandridge.

The original Fright Night had an iconic score (and an excellent original song, “Come To Me”) by Brad Fiedel, but for the remake director Gillespie turned to up-and-coming German composer Ramin Djawadi from Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control stable, who has past horror experience through his work on The Unborn and the Kevin Costner serial killer thriller Mr. Brooks. His score for Fright Night is more conventionally orchestral than the avant-garde electronics Fiedel originally wrote back in 1985, but it also doesn’t have as much personality. With a few exceptions, most of Djawadi’s score is generally straight from the horror movie scoring playbook, and is replete with creepy string chords, various orchestral dissonances and abstract textures, and loud and unexpected outbursts of noise to make the listener (and viewer) jump in the boo-gotcha moments.

The main title, “Welcome to Fright Night”, is actually one of Djawadi’s best thematic creations, a gothic and portentous march for a sampled pipe organ and orchestra that actually sounds more like something Christopher Young would write than anything from Djawadi’s back catalogue (so much so that one can’t help but wonder whether the film was temp-tracked with music from Drag Me to Hell). The four-minute end title performance in the conclusive “Fright Night” adds a contemporary rhythm beat and growling electric guitars to the organ theme, and over its running time gradually grows into something quite fun and memorable, arguably one of the most enjoyable individual pieces of Djawadi’s career to date – although, somewhat oddly, it does remind me of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas rock piece “Wizards in Winter” from their Lost Christmas Eve concept album (the one made famous by that Youtube video with the choreographed Christmas lights… but I digress).

The two featured soloists – Lili Haydn’s wavering, fluttering electric violin and Cameron Stone’s electric cello – are often showcased at the forefront of the mix, and a few cues do build up quite a head of rhythmic steam through repeated ground cello phrases and percussion hits, notably “No House, No Invitation”, “Go Get the Authorities”, the middle section of “I Can Hear You Breathe”, and parts of the admittedly rather impressive “Gotta Light”, which manages to work in some angelic choral work during its finale.

Elsewhere, there are a few interesting textures which briefly make the listener sit up and take notice, such as the ghostly choir and tubular bells in “400 Years of Survival”, the dramatic and potent crescendos in “That’s a Mighty Big Cross”, “Enough With the Vampires” and “Gotta Light” which are clearly inspired by Wojciech Kilar’s Dracula score, and the eerie snorting, breathing effects at the end of “I Can Hear You Breathe”, which sounds like Djawadi got the brass and woodwind sections to do something unsavory and unnatural with their mouthpieces. The calm and tonal penultimate cue, “Don’t Do Anything I Wouldn’t Do”, is like a beacon of beauty and restraint, and briefly allows Djawadi to write some more thematic and attractive material. There are also a few moments of more contemporary rock music in cues such as “How to Kill a Vampire” and “Let’s Go Kill Something” which use throbbing electric guitars and the sampled pipe organ from the main title to play a cool, catchy, grindhouse-style theme.

For long chunks of time, however, Djawadi’s score is standard horror movie stuff; certainly effective in context, and conducive to creating a mood of unease and uncertainty, but the jittery string writing, shrieking violin stingers and slithery descending brass chords have been done before so many times that listening to it apart from the film doesn’t quite have the same effect any more. It’s all very well-crafted and workmanlike, and the finale cue will likely make its way onto several people’s Best of 2011 lists, but for the most part it stays well within the musical comfort zone of the genre, and will really only truly appeal to those who can’t get enough of this kind of stuff.

Contrary to expectations – most of all mine – Ramin Djawadi is having one of his better years, and with this score and his excellent work on the TV series Game of Thrones is finally showcasing some diversification of talent and theme-writing prowess that was hitherto unknown to me. I’m not saying this is a watershed moment in Djawadi’s career, or that he’s suddenly going to find a place at the table alongside film music’s greatest practitioners, but after spending years churning out unadulterated rubbish such as Iron Man, Clash of the Titans, it a makes a nice and unexpected change for me to actually find myself quite liking what he’s writing.

Rating: ***

Buy the Fright Night soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Welcome to Fright Night (1:13)
  • There’s A Lot Of Bad People Out There (1:02)
  • Jerry’s Date (5:11)
  • A Terrible Vampire Name (2:46)
  • We Could Rock This Evil Thing Together (3:44)
  • Is That A Stake? (1:21)
  • 400 Years of Survival (3:09)
  • How To Kill a Vampire (1:42)
  • Just Hit Me (1:27)
  • No House, No Invitation (3:44)
  • That’s a Mighty Big Cross (2:48)
  • Let’s Kill Something (1:00)
  • Go Get the Authorities (1:58)
  • I Can Hear You Breathe (2:56)
  • I’m All Out of Beer (3:49)
  • A Garlicky Omelet (1:20)
  • Enough With the Vampires (3:09)
  • Gotta Light (2:48)
  • Don’t Do Anything I Wouldn’t Do (1:12)
  • Fright Night (4:12)

Running Time: 50 minutes 31 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-7111 (2011)

Music composed by Ramin Djawadi. Conducted by Tim Davies. Performed by The Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by Stephen Coleman, Tony Blondal and Frank Macchia. Featured musical soloists Cameron Stone and Lili Haydn. Special vocal performances by Drea Pressley. Recorded and mixed by Daniel Kresco. Edited by Brian Richards . Album produced by Ramin Djawadi.

  1. mastadge
    September 17, 2011 at 5:39 am

    I agree. The score is not great, but it’s not bad, and the “Fright Night” cue, while not brilliant, is certainly catchy, memorable and fun, one of the best the Djawadi’s yet composed.

    I do disagree about Clash, though — I think it’s much better than Iron Man. Again, it’s not great music, but as far as RC-style action scores go I find it more pleasant to listen to than most (then again, I don’t mind electric cellos or synthaugmented orchestras let alone loathe them as some do), with the occasional hint of an interesting idea (as for Medusa, for instance). The only really obnoxious cue on the album isn’t even by Djawadi!

    After Iron Man, Unborn, Medal of Honor and the forgettable Fly Me to the Moon I was about ready to write Djawadi off, but he’s gotten better, and is now near the top of the list of active RC composers — I certainly have more interest in a new score by him than by Balfe, Jackman, Örvarsson or even Jablonsky at this point. It only remains to be seen whether he continues to improve or just kind of diddles around at this level for a while before disappearing.

    • September 21, 2011 at 4:09 pm

      I liked Fright Night OK – it was certainly better than Jablonsky’s utterly awful horror outings – but I have to disagree with you, Mastadge, on him being at the top of the list of current MV/RC composers. I’d put Jackman, Örvarsson and Jablonsky above him, Streitenfeld equal to him and Balfe a touch below. Djawadi certainly hasn’t written anything near as fun as “Monsters vs. Aliens” or “Gulliver’s Travels” by Jackman (and the first cue of “X-Men: First Class” is awesome IMO), and he doesn’t seem to have the ethnic panache that Örvarsson has shown in “The Eagle” or the strong choral work in “Babylon A.D.” and “Season of the Witch”. As for Jablonsky, have you heard “Your Highness?” Check that one out, it’s a hidden gem, tons of fun. And “Steamboy” hardly needs any introduction 😉

      While I’d agree that “Clash of the Titans” isn’t awful other than the Neil Davidge cue, it doesn’t have the power-anthem memorability of a Jablonsky score, the more orchestral nature of a Jackman score or the interesting instrumentations and choral work of an Örvarsson score. And I’d look forward to something new from those three more than something new from Djawadi.

      • mastadge
        September 22, 2011 at 8:58 am

        De gustibus, I guess. I liked Jackman’s contributions to Kick-Ass and some parts of Gulliver, but never warmed to Monsters vs Aliens or X-Men. From Jablonsky I like Steamboy and Transformers and Your Highness are guilty pleasures, but he’s also gotten very samey — and in any event I find myself returning to the opening cues of Clash more often than to any of Jablonsky’s power anthems except those in the first Transformers. Streitenfeld’s music seems to work in Scott’s movies but I’ve never felt inclined to get the score afterward. Same with Örvarsson: I’ve enjoyed his work well enough in the film but have never been interested in tracking down more than a cue or two of it on album. Balfe has yet to do anything that interests me. Anyway. I’m not a fundamentalist with my rankings. In six months when, for instance, Djawadi’s released another mediocre score and one of the others has done something moderately good my interest in their music will shift accordingly, and it will keep shifting until they fade into obscurity or start creating consistently good scores.

      • February 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm

        The prop with the Grim Reaper and the dusnoair/dragon bones is so awesome! I want that for my front yard.

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