Original Review by Alan Rogers (First uploaded at maintitles.net)
I don’t really enjoy Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for films such as Gremlins/Gremlins 2: The New Batch and The ‘burbs. I state this straight off because, in my opinion, anyone who appreciates scores such as these that heavily feature Goldsmith’s use of synths will enjoy Bear McCreary’s score for Chillerama: Zom-B Movie. Those who don’t enjoy scores such as this may struggle to truly appreciate what McCreary has tried to do in this score. Director Joe Lynch’s Zom-B Movie is a “wrap-around” segment for the anthology movie, Chillerama, a movie that has recently been doing the rounds at various drive-in movie theatres prior to its release at the end of November 2011 on DVD/Blu-ray. Lynch again turns to composer Bear McCreary (their previous collaboration was for the straight-to-video sequel Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) and, from all accounts they had a whale of a time on a project that fits nicely into the Creepshow, Tales From The Darkside and Twilight Zone: The Movie genre of horror anthology movies.
The album begins well with the end credits song “I Don’t Want To Die A Virgin”, a catchy number performed by Young Beautiful In A Hurry (vocals by Bear McCreary’s brother Brendan) that features a great little guitar riff. For the score proper, McCreary has stated that Chillerama: Zom-B Movie gave him the opportunity to expand his musical horizon into the sounds he grew up with, letting him unleash his “inner thirteen-year-old” and to go wild composing for this score. McCreary further mentions that he was inspired by composers such as Bernard Herrmann, John Carpenter, Lalo Schifrin and the aforementioned Jerry Goldsmith for the various aspects of the score. The influence of both Herrmann and Carpenter can be heard immediately in the first score track, “Chillerama Main Title/Floyd’s Bean Bag” where a John Carpenter-like repeating synth motif establishes a tension and a Herrmann-esque theremin-like (played on ondes martenot) adds an otherworldly, Edward D. Wood Jr-type of atmosphere. Gothic-style pipe organs and Elfman-esque wordless vocals all establish the score (and film?) as an over-the-top homage to the cheesy drive-in horror movies of the 1950s (there’s also a Jonathan Elias/Children of The Corn (1984) feel to the theme). These influences recur every so often within the body of the score (e.g., “Tainted Popcorn”). But it’s McCreary’s reliance on the sound of Jerry Goldsmith’s scores such as Gremlins 2: The New Batch (best heard in tracks such as “Ryan To The Rescue” and “Rosebud, Motherfucker!”) that is the lasting memory from the score. Dramatic orchestral scoring (that does sound quite accomplished) mixed with synth-derived rhythms (including annoying drum pads) and various synth samples, McCreary admirably recreates the whole feel of scores to films such as both Gremlins movies and The ‘burbs but, for me, scores such as these constitute some of the most annoying pieces of music to accompany film. I can see how these scores can be “fun” and I understand how this style of score would fit a film such as Chillerama: Zom-B Movie (a film that from what I have seen is not one I would enjoy).
In amongst these 1980s nostalgia tracks, as well as there being some good dramatic scoring within individual cues (e.g., the latter half of “Rosebud, Motherfucker!”), tracks such as “Cecil and Orson” and “Fugue In Z Minor” are great additions to any McCreary “best of” list. The former is a simple but heartfelt composition for piano and small chamber orchestra (woodwinds, brass and strings) that’s a respite from the wacky synths and drum pad excesses of the rest of the score. And “Fugue In Z Minor” is a wonderfully over-the-top piece (this time in a positive way!) for what sounds like a solo pipe organ; gothic and dramatic, it’s a track that needs to be played loud and sounds great on headphones. Another great-sounding sequence – but which also highlights well how greatness can be buried in amongst less engaging music – is the 1970s Lalo Schifrin-influenced music composed for a trailer (featured in the main movie) to a (long lost) film, Deathication. The wah-wah guitars, funky percussion and hip keyboards is straight out of Schifrin-scored films such as Enter The Dragon and starts off “Deathication” in excellent fashion. The addition of wordless female vocals (supplied by Raya Yarbrough) adds to the authentic disco/funk sound McCreary creates for the trailer. Although on screen for about two minutes, McCreary ends the album with a 20-minute track featuring an “expanded” treatment of the ideas heard in “Deathication”. “Deathication (Movement Number 2)” begins (and ends) with a bout of flatulence before launching into a restatement of the Schifrin-influenced music heard earlier in “Deathication”. McCreary lets his creative juices run wild as he transforms the various ideas into a long montage of musical statements and solos (for the likes of guitar and saxophone) which are in themselves great to listen to but, as the “film” Deathication is – it appears – an homage to everything that is shit (literally), McCreary peppers the track with faeces influences: wordless female vocals that descends to sounds reminiscent of someone being strangled or more likely (given the nature of the film) someone struggling with a “number 2”, the inclusion of an Isaac Hayes’ Shaft-influenced “Shit” (as opposed to “Shaft”), a sequence for musical farting and a rap-poem tribute to all things faecal (“The turd / Is the word which breaks / with the wind of my soul / The skin and the hole / The echo in the bowl”).
It has been noted that McCreary’s fun but cheesy music for Chillerama: Zom-B Movie compared with his more “traditional” scores such as those for the Battlestar Galactica and Caprica TV shows mirrors Goldsmith’s own fun scores such as Gremlins and The ‘burbs and traditional scoring projects such as Alien and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. McCreary’s scoring for Chillerama: Zom-B Movie certainly seems to be entirely appropriate for the film and it certainly highlights his talent at composing for a variety of different films using a variety of musical styles. But, as with Goldsmith’s scores from the mid-1980s onwards that highlight his experimentation with various synths, McCreary’s Chillerama: Zom-B Movie is likely to generate a “love-hate” split amongst listeners. Me? “Hate” is a strong word that I prefer not to use, but there are parts of this score that I detest intensely and this response shapes my overall feel for the score as a whole. Which is a shame as there are islands of music here that are worth hearing. McCreary, in scoring Chillerama: Zom-B Movie, clearly had a great time and was inspired to compose music that fits the film’s ideas and intentions. But from what I have seen of the film, it’s a movie that is probably not aimed at the segment of the potential viewing audience I inhabit. Or maybe I just have no sense of humour. Chillerama: Zom-B Movie is a score that I can’t really recommend. What I can do is suggest that everyone sample the score, and decide for themselves, whether it is something that you enjoy. This is a Bear McCreary score and so it will be a quality score, it is just that the subject matter and style is very much dependent on personal preference. If you enjoy Jerry Goldsmith’s scores such Gremlins/Gremlins 2: The New Batch and The ‘burbs then I think that you will enjoy Bear McCreary’s Chillerama: Zom-B Movie.
- I Don’t Want To Die A Virgin (4:29)*
- Chillerama Main Title / Floyd’s Bean Bag (3:06)
- Ryan To The Rescue (2:34)
- Fernando Phagabeefy (3:07)
- Deathication (3:08)
- The Kiss (0:57)
- Cecil and Orson (1:49)
- Tainted Popcorn (2:09)
- The Final Reel (2:42)
- Rosebud, Motherfucker! (4:00)
- One Hell of A Show (1:41)
- Fugue In Z Minor (2:58)
- Rosemary’s Picnic Table (3:06)
- Seducing Ryan (0:30)
- Zom-B-Movie Suite (4:49)
- Deathication (Movement Number 2) (19:06)**
*(Music & lyrics by Brendan McCreary, performed by Young Beautiful In A Hurry), **(Music by Bear McCreary, lyrics by Raya Yarbrough & vocals by Joshua Silverstein)
Running Time: 60:17
BSX Records (2011)