Danny Elfman,
Red Dragon
(Decca, 2002)

We are not impressed, nor were we impressed with the new film, a remake of the far more successful Manhunter directed by Michael Mann. Brett Ratner's remake is paint-by-numbers and without style (see my review of the film here at Rambles), and unfortunately Danny Elfman's score fits into the same category.

Filled with elephantine chords, heavily pulsing beats and ponderously pregnant soft passages, the music seems determined to do what Ratner could not, but it too fails to scare us, terrify us or make us give much of a damn about what's happening on screen. It is generic scary-movie music, and you've heard it all before. Everything is in a minor key (has there ever been a horror movie, one wonders, scored in a major key?) and although Elfman makes a few interesting choices instrumentally, the music is uniformly flat and standard.

The CD is graced (or rather cursed) with some infuriatingly clunky Macromedia CD-ROM content, including an interview segment with Elfman, Ratner and a sentence or two from Anthony Hopkins. Ratner comes off as annoying, but Elfman appears pleasant, shy and self-effacing, perhaps for good reasons. Elfman has never written a truly first-rate, transcendent score. He's a solid popcorn-movie composer, but Red Dragon needed more than a popcorn score. It needed the talents of a composer like Howard Shore, whose score for The Silence of the Lambs was a masterpiece of subtlety and understatement. Elfman praises Shore in his interview, but his score for Red Dragon doesn't come close to equaling its predecessor. True horror is quiet, not noisy and bombastic like the Batman and Spiderman movies Elfman has been scoring. Those are comic books, and comic book scores work for them. Red Dragon is something else completely, but it seems that neither Elfman nor the film's director realized what.

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 30 November 2002

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