Deliver Us From Evil marks the fifth movie soundtrack I’ve worked on with Christopher Young, and the first pure horror film. I was very excited to be a part of the project, for one because the horror genre is right in Chris’s wheelhouse and I relished the chance to be able to observe him “doing his thing,” but also because I got a chance to observe his working relationship with director Scott Derrickson, which in the past has produced such successful collaborations as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister. On top of that, this project was being overseen by none other than Jerry Bruckheimer, whose name you may recognize from ALL OF THE BEST MOVIES IN THE LAST 30 YEARS. During the project the team got a kick out of just looking at the sheer number of projects he had in production at the moment. The man is very prolific.
The concept of the music score was quite clear from the beginning. We were to start out the movie with synthesized and found sounds (heavily manipulated, of course), and then in the 4th reel as the direct conflict between Sgt. Sarchie (Eric Bana) and Santino (Sean Harris) becomes imminent, strings would gradually be introduced into the mix.
To kick off the project, Chris produced some 40-50 “studies” about 2 minutes each in length, so that Scott could nail down exactly what the tone of the score should be. The studies included everything from pure sound effects to several string quartet pieces. Scott chose many sounds and textures from this mix which were his “favorites”; his ear gravitated to anything that sounded “animalistic” and “alive,” and that had some grit to reflect the atmosphere of the city. The sounds chosen were somewhat more organic than those found in the score for Sinister, which is due so the different tone, setting, and subject matter.
Somewhat unexpectedly, Scott also fell head over heels for one of Chris’s string compositions. This piece came to be known as “Sarchie’s dirge.” We were able to use this material in several places in the movie, and it gave those scenes an unusual pathos that wouldn’t have been accomplished by the sound design alone. It’s not your typical horror movie fare, and Chris was very encouraged that the addition of this element opened up some new doors to be creative and use the orchestra in a unique way.
The lead up to and performance of the exorcism was the last thing that was scored, and we were left with the daunting task of having the strings (which now represented Sarchie and his human struggles) and the sound design elements (which represented so-called “primary evil,” the underlying demonic force at work) collide with one another in a big way.
At this point Chris had one of his “Y’know what I’ve always wanted to try?” moments. It is no secret that he loves 20th century classical music and is particularly taken by the early sound mass and extended technique experiments of Krzysztof Penderecki. He has used these techniques to great effect in several of his scores, Emily Rose being one of them. However, the techniques have always been performed live by an orchestra sitting in a room together, and that sound has become old hat for the horror genre.
The challenge, then, was to take the string orchestra idea and push it a step further. Chris wanted to take those extended string sounds and apply modern processing techniques to them, to make it sound like string music, but string music like no one had ever heard before.
We did three sessions with the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra, two to collect samples and one to record the string dirge cues as well as layer some extra “stuff” on top of the processed & arranged samples. There were five engineers working downstairs over the course of the film: Luigi Pulcini, Greg Reveret, Tao Liu, Max Blomgren, and Will Zattára, who did a brilliant job taking the recorded samples and arranging them in a completely insane way. Imagine if the violin section could run off stage left, while playing, and then suddenly materialize stage right. Stuff that would be completely impossible to pull off in a concert setting, but that is possible through studio magic.
In the end, the result was pretty otherworldly and terrifying, and certainly not something that you have ever heard before.
Deliver Us From Evil opens today in theaters all around the country. Check it out and let me know what you think of the score!