Thursday, August 11, 2011


You've been listening to Christopher Young's music for years, and you've never even realized it. Too often the effort that goes into any film score is disregarded by the general public in favor of what is occurring on the screen. Sure, every once in a while, scores like Titanic (yikes) or Inception (yes) are able to break that barrier and populate the mainstream. Examples like those, however, are few and far between. Film music is a largely dismissed medium - and audiences tend to take for granted that it even exists. Too often, to general audiences, the music is merely present; it affects the scene, and then it vanishes like a quiet wind. Instead of having its own life, it's there to simply service the story, like a badly timed joke.

Having provided the scores for such iconic movies as Hellraiser, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, and more recently the Spider-Man sequels, Young has always (and unfortunately) remained under the radar. Outside of the rabid horror movie fans or soundtrack collecting groups, Young never quite achieved the reputation and celebrity of his colleagues Hans Zimmer, Jerry Goldsmith, or John Williams. And maybe it's because Young has always leaned towards the dark side of the film medium - something else sadly dismissed.

Young's film debut would come in 1982, supplying his untested sound for the dubiously named The Dorm That Dripped Blood. Needless to say, the film was just another in the long line of "dead teenager movies" assaulting theaters following the one-two punch of 1978's Halloween and 1980's Friday the 13th. Young would begin to make a name for himself, however, and would work continuously until 1985. The previous year, Freddy Krueger had been given to the world, and Charles Bernstein had provided what would go on to be an iconic score, the main themes which later surfaced in every Nightmare sequel...except for Nightmare 2. Young, instead, wrote all new themes for the movie, recognizing that the sequel was straying away from the previous established mythology of the first film. Freddy was no longer a dream phantom who could haunt you while you slept - he now had the ability to possess you during your dreams and use your body as a vehicle (to go to gay bars, for some reason).

For this development, Young's new themes - built on sharp, quick jarring noises and eerie ethereal tones - helped to shape Nightmare 2, if not into the most successful sequel of the series, but certainly  into the darkest entry. Whalesong was layered behind the music whenever Freddy was on screen, making the mood that much more surreal and dreamlike.

Young would continue to diligently work on little seen films until the year his career changed forever: 1987. His score for Hellraiser would make everyone - both industry members and general audiences - stand up and take notice. Pinhead, who would appear in consistently diminishing Hellraiser entries over the next twenty-five years, would never be on screen without the theme that Young had created. (Not even Michael Myers can say that, despite his arguably far more famous accompanying theme).   

Young would go on to score Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 - in which he would take the themes he had previously established and place them in the most deranged carnival setting this side of Hell. He would win numerous awards for the score, and it would go on to be considered his masterpiece. Not bad for a man only five years into his career.

And despite the A-list, high-profile movies he has worked on throughout his career (The Shipping News, Copycat, The Core), and all the while continuing to show his diversity (HBO's Something the Lord Made, Wonder Boys, Swordfish), he would never leave the horror genre behind. A self-proclaimed enthusiast for all things dark (he is an avid collector of jack-o-lanterns, horrific masks, and autographs from horror movie stars), he continues to work in the genre which birthed his career. Though the material he scores may be beneath him (Urban Legends and Species comes to mind), he never fails to produce exciting and engaging music.

One thing a fellow film score enthusiast will tell you - NEVER judge any film's score based on the film itself. (TRON: Legacy has gone on to be hailed as one of the greatest film scores of all time. Does the accompanying movie deserve that honor? Not quite.) Frankly speaking, Urban Legends is a piece of shit, and despite its successful box office take, it's a shame that Young's score was never officially released (though can be easily found by anyone with halfway decent Googling skills). It remains one of his absolute best - and would skillfully display one of Young's most famous trademarks - the ethereal choral of voices (later displayed in Drag Me to Hell, The Uninvited, and the Spider-Man sequels).

To date, Young's most recent release has been for the movie Priest, and has presented a new side of the ever-unpredictable composer: a sweeping score akin to Zimmer's work on Nolan's Batman films, but also featuring those Young trademarks fans have come to recognize - a sea of baritone voices; it has wowed not just his longtime fans, but new ones as well. It is being considered one of 2011's best scores, and ashamedly has only seen a digital release.

As a youth, and long before his expansive career, Christopher Young would one day be introduced to the work of another famous composer, known for his more horrific themes: Bernard Hermann (Psycho, Vertigo).  "Here was someone doing everything I wanted to do," Young said. "I fell in love with the music before I realized that it was written for movies." 

Essential Listening:

Drag Me To Hell
Track 01: Drag Me To Hell (Main Title)

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
Track 07: Hall of Mirrors

Track 01: Priest (Main Title)


Music from Young's Copycat kicks in at the 1:00 mark. This has been utilized in several horror/thriller movie trailers. Here is just one of them:

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