Home > Reviews > EVIL DEAD – Roque Baños

EVIL DEAD – Roque Baños

evildeadOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The original Evil Dead was a groundbreaking and convention-shattering horror movie when it was first released in 1981; it launched the career of director Sam Raimi as a new and exciting voice in genre cinema, and the film itself became notorious as a bloody, darkly funny, brilliant assault on the senses – so much so that, in the UK, it became the poster child of the ‘video nasty’ campaign initiated by the self-appointed monitor of British morals, Mary Whitehouse, and was banned on VHS in England for quite some time. 35-year-old Uruguayan filmmaker Fede Alvarez’s new version of the film takes what is essentially the same story – a group of friends make their way to an isolated cabin in the woods, and inadvertently release a terrifying demon into the world by way of an ancient book – but dispenses with much of the original film’s gallows humor, while simultaneously increasing the gore content exponentially for jaded new millennium audiences. Blood, guts, vomit, and other assorted entrails splatter the screen for 92 stomach churning minutes, but somehow the film feels less satisfying than the original, taking itself a little too seriously, and in no way living up to its hyperbolic publicity tagline of being “the most terrifying film you will ever experience”. The film stars Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore, and is produced by Raimi and the original film’s star, Bruce Campbell.

I’ve been saying for several years now that some of the best film music in the world is being written in Spain, and one of the composers at the forefront of this Iberian renaissance has been Roque Baños. The 45-year old composer from Murcia, now re-located to Los Angeles, has worked on a few English-language films before, notably Sexy Beast in 2000 and The Machinist in 2004, but all his best work has been done for Spanish language features: I’m especially fond of his scores for Las 13 Rosas, Segunda Piel, 800 Balas and the Torrente series. Him being hired to score Evil Dead was a real coup for TriStar Pictures and director Alvarez, who had to fight clueless, reluctant executives for Baños to score the film. He repaid their faith him with a gargantuan, brutal, terrifyingly brilliant horror score that, hopefully, will open doors for him in Hollywood.

A lot of horror scores tend to moan and groan endlessly, churning out clichéd stingers and boo-gotcha moments, without any real sense of style or musical creativity. With the exception of the horror scores of Christopher Young, who is still the undisputed king of this stuff, Evil Dead blows pretty much everything else out of the water. It’s a loud, violent, intellectually stimulating, emotionally draining orchestral-and-choral score that barely lets up through it’s 71-minute running time, crushing the listener with one of the most visceral soundtrack experiences you are likely to have in quite some time. Written for the Pro Arte Orchestra and BTG Chapel Choir and recorded in London, Baños lays his cards on the table early in the ferocious opening cue, “I’ll Rip Your Soul Out”, which also introduces listeners to the score’s most unique feature: the air raid siren.

Sirens have been used to unnerving effect in film before, most notably in the Silent Hill series, but as far as I’m aware this score marks the first time that a siren has actually been used as a character leitmotif in a musical context – in this instance, as a recurring motif for the Abomination which terrorizes the cabin. In the CD liner notes Baños said he was inspired to use the sirens during his first week of composition on the film, when real police sirens were constantly going off outside his house, giving him sleepless nights and nightmares. The siren features in many subsequent cues – at the end of “Sad Memories”, in “Get Me Out of Here”, “Bloody Kiss”, “Three Ways of Saving Her Soul”, and “Natalie Hunting”, and to usher in the graphically over-the-top finale in “He’s Coming” and “Abominations Rising” – and the result is quite chilling. When you hear the siren’s unearthly wail, you know the Abomination is near, and that the shit, blood, puke, and every other bodily fluid you can think of is about to hit the fan.

Themes are not Evil Dead’s strong point – it’s more concerned with texture, orchestration and rhythm – but it does have one, representing the strained but tender relationship between the main character Mia and her brother David. Written for a melancholy piano accompanied by undulating string lines, it appears for the first time at the end of “I’ll Rip Your Soul Out”, and enjoys a couple of fleeting guest appearances later, notably at the end of the introspective “Sad Memories”, before receiving its central performance in the emotionally heightened “Come Back to Me”, when it rises to almost operatic proportions. The theme also appears in a more upbeat setting, overlaid with prancing violin accents in the mischievous “Evil Tango” that plays over the beginning of the end credits, and in a straight concert version in “The Evil Dead Main Theme”.

The rest of the score is pretty much relentless horror and action all the way, and the best part about it how much effort and detail Baños took in crafting even the tiniest elements to make them effective, scary and cool. There are so many brilliant musical touches in the orchestration and the performance it’s hard to know where to begin. Baños uses his brass like Elliot Goldenthal did in his heyday, bass trombones slurring their notes, horns snarling away in unison. The strings go from high-register accents to chopping, strident rhythmic passages to elegantly sinister moments of chilly beauty – there’s even a percussive con legno string sequence in “Three Ways of Saving Her Soul” that is very successful at creating an ominous mood. There are creepy descending piano scales and massively dissonant woodwind clusters in “Demon Possession”, chaotic brass wails combined with the siren in “Get Me Out of Here”, an enormous wall of sound in “Bloody Kiss” to underscore possibly the most gruesome part of the film, and much more besides.

The monumental rampaging action sequences, half-way through “Natalie Hunting”, and in the subsequent “I’ll Do What I Gotta Do”, are two of the score’s definite highlights. The former, with its throbbing percussion hits, crashing pianos and contrapuntal high string squeals, is quite wonderful, while the subsequent 8-minute set piece of fire and blood is a steely-eyed combination of ragged aggressiveness and relentless purpose that jumps from determined pounding pianos to moments of quiet string-based beauty, choral majesty and eruptions of almost primeval terror. And, of course, there are quite a few explosions of noise and stingers dotted throughout the score, all of which are designed to make the listener jump out of his or her seat, but that just goes with the territory. It’s breathless, exciting, wonderful stuff

The chorus, too, is used in so many different ways: they sing Latin lyrics, they vocalize wordlessly, the chant at you like an angry ghost, and sometimes they whisper in your ear and breathe down your neck, like in the unnerving “Don’t Say It, Don’t Write It, Don’t Hear It” and the subsequent “Demon Possession”. Sometimes it’s just the women, lending a phantasmic chill to the opening moments of “Three Ways of Saving Her Soul”; sometimes it’s just the men, groaning evilly as in “Natalie Hunting”, and sometimes it’s everyone, screaming bloody murder at you. The ‘sinister Latin chant’ has become a horror movie cliché since Jerry Goldsmith and The Omen in 1976, but Baños somehow manages to avoid all the pitfalls associated with the sound to make it work superbly well here.

The finale piece, “Abominations Rising”, brings all these elements – full-throated choir, enormous orchestra, howling siren – into one of the most overwhelming action horror sequences I have heard in years. The thrusting, unstoppable sequence that extends for about a minute from 3:14 mark features some of the best vicious choral writing I’ve heard for quite some time, and the massively powerful brass writing that continues on from there for another 90 seconds truly has to be heard to be believed.

Possibly the only drawback to Evil Dead is its sheer brutality. With the exception of just a couple of cues, Evil Dead is raw, unrelenting musical carnage from start to finish, and if your musical tastes tend to be in the calmer, prettier, more romantic area, then this might not be the score for you. However, for anyone who – like me – occasionally enjoys wallowing in the unrelenting power of a large-scale orchestral-choral horror score of the highest order, then Evil Dead will be a treat. It would not be an overstatement to say that this is probably the best balls-to-the-wall horror score since Christopher Young scared us all to death with Drag Me to Hell in 2009, and I hope that as a result of this Roque Baños starts getting the international acclaim – and assignments – he so richly deserves.

P.S. – a word of caution for the squeamish. Do not examine the photos in the accompanying CD booklet during, or immediately after, a meal. Judging by the pictures he chose, co-producer/art director Dan Goldwasser clearly wants listeners to unexpectedly lose their lunch!

Rating: ****½

Buy the Evil Dead soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • I’ll Rip Your Soul Out (4:50)
  • Sad Memories (5:21)
  • Don’t Say It, Don’t Write It, Don’t Hear It (4:42)
  • Demon Possession (4:21)
  • Get Me Out of Here (5:24)
  • She Tried to Kill Me (2:31)
  • He Won’t Let You Out (2:45)
  • Bloody Kiss (2:23)
  • Three Ways of Saving Her Soul (4:02)
  • Natalie Hunting (5:34)
  • I’ll Do What I Gotta Do (8:42)
  • Come Back to Me (3:02)
  • He’s Coming (3:21)
  • Abominations Rising (6:58)
  • The Pendant/Evil Tango (3:21)
  • The Evil Dead Main Theme (1:41)
  • Come Back To Me (Alternate) (2:01)

Running Time: 71 minutes 33 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD-1255 (2013)

Music composed and conducted by Roque Baños. Performed by The Pro Arte Orchestra and BTG Chapel Choir. Orchestrations by Roque Baños and Ginés Carrión. Recorded and mixed by Geoff Foster. Edited by Maarten Hofmeijer. Album produced by Roque Baños, MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys and Dan Goldwasser.

  1. April 26, 2013 at 7:53 am

    Oooh, this sounds like a good one. Your comparison to “Drag Me to Hell” has got me really interested. Love that score!

  2. April 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    agree all the way Banos has created a score that is pretty unrelenting and filled with some real scary material, but love it..

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