Home > Reviews > VENGEFUL HEART (QUA TIM MÁU) – Christopher Wong and Garrett Crosby

VENGEFUL HEART (QUA TIM MÁU) – Christopher Wong and Garrett Crosby

February 14, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

vengefulheartOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Vengeful Heart is a Vietnamese supernatural thriller directed by Victor Vu, starring Phuong Nha, Hoang Bach, and Thai Hoa, one of Vietnam’s most popular and successful comedians. It tells the story of Linh, a young woman who, after almost being killed in a car accident, survives after receiving a heart transplant. During her recovery Linh begins to have nightmares and hallucinations about a mysterious house in a forest. Tortured by her dreams, Linh eventually finds the house, which she finds inhabited by a very unusual Addams-esque family; worse still, it starts to become apparent that the recently deceased daughter of the family is Linh’s heart donor, and the family is becoming more and more attached to Linh. The film was massively successful in its home country, taking in more than 90 billion đồng, making it the all-time highest grossing domestic film in Vietnamese box office history.

The score for Vengeful Heart is by composer Christopher Wong and his assistant, up-and-coming California-born composer Garrett Crosby. As is the necessity, due to the lack of budgets in the Vietnamese film industry, the score is synthesized with samples, but despite these limitations the quality of the music shines through regardless. The score oscillates between pretty/creepy thriller music in the style of a Jerry Goldsmith or a Christopher Young, more urgent action material built around rhythmic cello ostinatos, and some slightly more lighthearted, but still creepy ideas for the peculiar family who live deep in the woods.

The opening “The Hills and the Forest” is outstanding, a driving piece augmented by a strong percussion element, an array of fluttering regional woodwinds, and a đàn tranh traditional Vietnmese zither that gives the score a distinct sound of its own. Some of these ideas carry over into tracks like the emotional “The Graveyard”, and form a large part of the score’s more action-oriented finale, which includes exciting pieces such as “Dark Forest”, the angry and energetic “A Tale of Two Women,” and “Full Circle”, with it’s dense percussion patterns and fluttering, eerie woodwind textures.

The Addams-like family is typified by a lighthearted, dusty-sounding, waltz-like tune for piano, strings and woodwinds, first heard in ”Odd Company”, and which wouldn’t be out of place at Disneyland in the Haunted Mansion, especially when the pizzicato and chime effects come to the fore. Other cues, like “Quiet Town”, have an idyllic, suburban feel with light woodwinds and more jaunty rhythms, while cues like “A Long Hidden Love”, “Mother” and the conclusive “Epilogue” showcase Wong’s romantic writing, with a tender piano melody offset by rich, gentle string chords, and occasional further recapitulations of the Family’s theme.

Crosby’s cues – “A Familiar Place”, “Realization”, “Delirium”, “Picture Falls”, “Heavy Heart” and “Severed Hearts” – conform well with Wong’s blueprint for the musical style of the film, but are also able to showcase his personal style and writing talent. “A Familiar Place” is especially noteworthy, containing a gorgeous central melody for solo cello; “Realization” has a sense of heavy tragedy, made all the more poignant by the inclusion of a subtle, ghostly female vocal effect; and “Severed Hearts” has a real sense of delicacy, with light harp glissandi, high piano chords, more glassy female voices, and string textures of great fragility.

It’s amazing to me just how much great music is being written in corners of the film music globe no-one thinks of investigating. That Christopher Wong – who lives and works in Los Angeles – is basically the most prominent composer in the Vietnamese film industry, and is writing music as good as Vengeful Heart despite having virtually no access to live musicians, is remarkable, and it’s a shame that so few people here in the West know about, or have access to, the superb work he is doing.

Track Listing:

  • The Hills and the Forest (1:50)
  • Quiet Town (1:13)
  • Sleepwalk (1:42)
  • The Graveyard (3:34)
  • A Familiar Place (2:42)
  • Realization (2:28)
  • Odd Company (2:26)
  • Delirium (1:36)
  • Garden Memories (2:36)
  • Picture Falls (1:18)
  • Heavy Heart (1:36)
  • A Long Hidden Love (2:47)
  • Into the Mirror (1:20)
  • Mother (1:34)
  • Dark Forest (3:40)
  • Severed Hearts (4:47)
  • A Tale of Two Women (5:14)
  • Full Circle (5:01)
  • Epilogue (3:00)

Composer Promo (2014)

Running Time: 50 minutes 29 seconds

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