By Karol Krok
The name of Howard Shore is not often equated with comedy. The usually brooding and moody music from Canadian composer conjures the imagery of psychologically tormenting thrillers, rather than mischief and campy fun, which is why the newly released SHE-DEVIL from Music Box Records is such a welcome addition to any film music fan. It recalls the time when he graced lighter films with his talents.
The 1989 film itself is a dark comedy, a genre very popular around that time, with DEATH BECOMES HER and THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK being among the most notables titles released. Susan Seidelman’s effort didn’t exactly spark that much of an interest, and both audiences and critics were quite moderate in their reception. Having said that, the performances from both Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr are this film’s saving grace.
The score accompanying She-Devil has a strong root in the traditional Hollywood sound. Resembling many classics like Steiner and Waxman, the score opens with ‘Main Title’ – which merges the sprawling romance of old with some trace of horror. ‘Beauty Shop’ brings female voice into the mix, creating an almost Danny Elfman style of comedy. In other words, miles away from the soundscape of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Se7en.
In ‘Ruth Gets Angry’, Shore makes a great use out of clavichord, one of the key instrumental colours that he uses to further cement She-Devil as a black comedy. In ‘She-Devil’s Rage’ and ‘Blowing Up The House’, Gothic horror elements start to take over, taking us back to the scary cinema of old, with their over the top grandeur. And those moments are among the very best highlights the album has to offer.
Bristling with energy and breezy attitude, the score to She-Devil is light fare – overblown and campy. A testament that Howard Shore is in fact a very versatile composer. Depending on your tolerance to the genre, it should be really good fun, and in any case should sit comfortably on the shelf next to Alan Silvestri’s and John Williams’ works for the beforementioned films of the same era.
The 42-minute album presents Howard Shore’s score for the very first time in any format, as the previously released compilation album didn’t contain any material. And while the complete disc has a relatively brief running time, it offers more than enough attractions. In fact, about halfway through the music becomes quite repetitive, even despite the interesting thematic development for two female leads. Recommended to fans of the genre.
She-Devil is out now from Music Box Records