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Christopher Young: Dream Lover (The Christopher Young Odyssey Part Four)
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• Posted by: Robert Taylor   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at 11:16 a.m.
• IP Address: 137-83-117-117.starry-inc.net

Rapid Fire

“Rapid Fire” was the movie Hollywood upstart Brandon Lee made directly before he was killed during production on “The Crow,” was a moderate hit at the box office but has been lost to time thanks to the excellence (and infamy) of Lee’s subsequent film.

This is an interesting little score, with Christopher Young mashing up the Eastern influences that are most predominant early in the album with late ‘80s/early ‘90s action cheese. At times, it’s super awkward – you can’t really believe that the title track that opens the album exists in the same world with a cue like “Together Alone.”

But I liked the music more on the second listen, once I had become used to its rhythms and the fact that Young trucks out the harmonica once again, all these years later. Both aspects of the score are well-executed – the aforementioned “Together Alone” is glorious cheese even before the sax comes into play.

And while Young might not balance the two styles so well, he does mash up the more bass-heavy action styles predominant at the time with a lightness in the music, which is appreciated because it could have become overwhelming easily.

To be honest, I’m not sure how often I’ll be revisiting “Rapid Fire.” It’s such an odd duck in Young’s already odd filmography, where even the high points still feel awkwardly dated. This is the kind of score you listen to once or twice, are happy you did, then move on and don’t think about it again.

Score: ***

Jennifer 8

“Jennifer 8” is a bad movie made by a very good filmmaker who never got the opportunities he should have in Hollywood, in part because of the performance of this film. Bruce Robinson wrote and directed the thriller, about a serial killer hunting blind women, and the script is actually pretty decent. My issue comes with the casting of Andy Garcia and John Malkovich as two of the leads… both are fine actors grossly out of place and unable to properly interpret the material. Much better is Uma Thurman, whose great performance runs circles around the others.

I haven’t seen the film in over a decade, but I still remember the beautiful descending beating heart of Young’s main theme for the film – it’s a great earworm that Robinson uses to great effect opening the film and elsewhere. I mean, it has to be great if I could still hum it all these years later.

And whenever Young is exploring that main theme or a subtheme for (I’m guessing) Thurman’s character, the music is aces. There are also excellent sections of suspense music where Young merges his usual methods with a more Bernard Herrmann-esque sound… then throws in James Horner’s piano clunking for good measure.

But the album still feels overlong, even though it’s only in the mid-40 minutes, because a good chunk of the music is meandering and atmospheric, with light piano tinkling and electronic dread building. Those sections unfortunately feel downright anonymous, which is a shame because the highlights of the album are so outstanding that this could have been a minor classic.

Score: ***1/2

The Dark Half

“The Dark Half” is one of the best premises Stephen King has ever come up with – one reflective of the “death” of his pen name Richard Bachman (who still manages to release a book about once a decade 30 years later). But the book’s execution is shit, and the movie makes those problems even more explicit. Once again, a very good director (George Romero) miscast his lead actor (Timothy Hutton), which simply broke the movie.

Still there are a few very good scenes, particularly the prologue where surgeons are operating on a brain… and suddenly an eye opens on the brain mid-surgery. It’s doesn’t make it a must-watch, but moments like that lift it up to the mid-tier of King adaptations (which are mostly bad, to be fair).

Young’s music, however, is a blockbuster work. It has a main theme that, even for him, is a grand achievement… and it opens and closes the album beautifully. Right upfront, my main issue with the score and the reason it is not ranked higher is that Young unfortunately doesn’t explore that theme more thoroughly – it’s gone for most of the running time, which is a major missed opportunity.

I also love the morbid children’s choir Young utilizes, which gives the proceedings a winter-y, Danny Elfman feel in the best way possible. And I love that Young keeps the choir restrained throughout – going big would have been a mistake.

The rest of the music is made up of grand suspense music, excellent execution of his musique concrete techniques that don’t grate on me as they sometimes do, and lots of creepy suspense work. If he would have only used that incredible theme to its fullest potential, this could have been a five-star work.

Score: ****

Dream Lover

What the fuck is this movie?

“Dream Lover” is ostensibly a neo-noir erotic thriller where James Spader is seduced by Madchen Amick, who then tears his life apart. But Young’s music is insane, to the point where I assumed the film must be a comedy. I looked up the final scene on YouTube, where Spader savagely strangles Amick to death, and it’s definitely not a comedy.

So why does it sound like one?

The opening titular track is not as light as the rest of the score, carrying over the cooing choir from “The Dark Half” and placing it in a more electronic thriller atmosphere.

But directly after that, the score seems to completely fall off a cliff tonally. The next cue is a comedic waltz, one which serves more as the main thematic material for the music than anything in the title track. And while it’s okay for a track or two, Young revisits it so often that it becomes old fast.

Then the original song comes on, which I genuinely thought was an old vaudeville number placed on album until I realized they were name checking the film’s characters and storyline. How this musical number (I assume it must be in the film) fits in with the aforementioned ending is baffling to me.

The music style continues to zig and zag from there, even managing to utilize Musique Concrete to make a sorta horror cue (though the waltz circus music is there too) with “Flying.” And then the final cue “Sweet Dreams” calls back all the way to that first cue… as if none of the middle section existed.

I honestly don’t know what to make of “Dream Lover.” Each section of music is well executed, but Good God is it bananas weird. I suspect you will be driven as crazy as I was while listening.

Score: **

Murder in the First

“Murder in the First” has nothing to do with that Taye Diggs television series, but is based on a 1995 legal drama about abuse and mistreatment of inmates at Alcatraz Prison that was both a moderate critical and commercial hit. Still, it seems to be only remembered today for Young’s outstanding music… which is so good that I would rank it only behind his two “Hellraiser” scores so far in this Odyssey.

The word for this score is “Strings!” Young uses them exquisitely throughout to maximum effect, rarely even bothering to use other instruments in any way other than in support of those incredible, incredible strings. It casts its spell over the listener right from the start, and (almost) never lets go for the entire 45-minute runtime. Even in its quieter moments, it keeps you enthralled.

And that main theme! Good lord, man! The fact that Young can pen these incredible themes, one right after the other, is astonishing. He also uses his choir brilliantly with the strings, never moreso than in “Adoramus Dei” and “Redemption,” the latter of which is one of my favorite cues from Young ever.

My one issue is with the two cues “Movietone News” and “Suitcase Sally,” which are well-composed but tonally way off from the rest of the score, all perky, delicate and light. I recommend moving them to the end of the album so that they don’t interrupt the flow – they are too good to delete, but don’t work where they are placed.

Still, this is a masterpiece-level score. It’s essential listening for score fans, and is so good it makes me want to watch the movie just to see how it’s used within it.

Score: *****

The Christopher Young Odyssey

The Dorm That Dripped Blood - **
Highpoint - ***
The Oasis - *1/2
The Power - ***
Avenging Angel - **1/2
Def-Con 4 - **1/2
Wheels of Fire - ***
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge - **
Getting Even - **1/2
Invaders From Mars - ***1/2
Trick or Treat - **
Hellraiser - *****
Flowers in the Attic - *****
U-Boats: The Wolf Pack - ****
The Telephone - ***
Hellbound: Hellraiser II - *****
Bat*21 - ***1/2
Haunted Summer - ****1/2
The Fly II - *****
Hider in the House - **
Bright Angel - ***
Max and Helen - **
The Vagrant - ****
Rapid Fire - ***
Jennifer 8 - ***1/2
The Dark Half - ****
Dream Lover - **
Murder in the First - *****
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The Man Who Knew Too Little
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Hush
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Urban Legend
Playing by Heart
Entrapment
In Too Deep
The Hurricane
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Bless the Child
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Swordfish
Scenes of the Crime
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Runaway Jury
Something the Lord Made
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Killing Season
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