Music in the movies: Graeme Revell

Glen goes through the movie scores of Graeme Revell, and finds a few examples you might want to pick up...

The numerous discussions of late about the on-off proposal for a Crow remake got me reaching for the soundtracks and scores for the original movies, and I was struck at how well Revell’s score stands up. So,  I decided to go through some of his other key works.

The New Zealand native, Revell, came to people’s attention in the late 80s, with his score for Dead Calm, and has since carved out a reputation as a solid film composer across a variety of genres, who’s capable of moments of brilliance.

What’s included below is by no means a complete list of Revell’s scores, as it misses out his Rodriguez collaborations that I wrote about last year.  Rather, it looks at what scores I feel showcase his career to date…

The Crow & The Crow 2: City Of Angels

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Like many similar efforts, this is the soundtrack that features the collection of songs which received most of the attention and, no doubt, sales around the film’s release, but it’s the score that does the hard work and is as effective at setting the mood of the film.

One of Revell’s finest efforts, it’s an ambitious and effective piece of work that evokes the gothic mood of the film whilst hitting the action beats perfectly. Hugely emotive at times, this really shows how good Revell can be.

The quality of the score for the sequel dipped, but not to the same extent as the dip in quality seen by the film it accompanies. Revell set himself a high bar with an outstanding contribution for The Crow and does return to a number of familiar themes and introduces enough elements to give the piece its own identity but ultimately it fails to stir the emotions in the same way as its predecessor.

The Craft

This is a film I really quite enjoyed as a youngster, but it has been a while since I’ve revisited it. Listening to the score again for this article has made me want to, though.

When scores work at their best, they’re like an extra character, and that’s exactly the case here. Revell blends together chants and percussion to add an air of mysticism that’s equal parts familiar and otherworldly. Sadly, it’s not a score that gets the attention his contributions to The Crow franchise receives. However, it’s equal to them in terms of quality. He’s clearly comfortable with this type of material, as working on these films has seen him produce some of the best work of his career.

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The Saint

The film is a bit horrendous, but Revell’s score is absolutely brilliant and almost makes the damn thing watchable.

This is one of the most layered and rewarding scores Revell has produced throughout his career, as he shows a level of attention to detail and care for character that was absent from the film itself. There’s a use of a leitmotif, which centres the score, but Revell’s compositions as a whole here always complement the scenes, as well as the sourced material that features in the film.

It’s a damn fine action score that proves that, on his day, Revell is as good as anyone at this type of thing. It’s just a shame that his contributions to the genre since have been hit and miss.

The Negotiator

I revisited this film again recently and it holds up rather well. It’s nothing particularly groundbreaking, but is entertaining nonetheless. The fairly standard material is elevated by the quality performances by Samuel L Jackson and Kevin Spacey, who are on fine form.

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Like the actors who elevate the material, there’s a similar theme with Revell, as he employs layers of electronics, which were rather typical of films of this type, and adds his own identity through a masterful performance that really lifts the score above many of its peers.

 Part of its effectiveness relies on an element of the unexpected, as there’s a tendency to know what beats will be hit throughout the score, but Revell keeps you on your toes by throwing a few curveballs to mix things up.

Assault On Precinct 13

The remake to Assault on Precinct 13 is fine, if a little unnecessary. There’s very little wrong with Carpenter’s original, and even to this day, it stands as not only one of the director’s best moments, but one of the all time greatest siege movies.

With that being the case, the remake was always going to have a tough act to follow and ultimately failed to match the unnerving terror of the original. Like the film itself; Revell’s score is approached with the best intentions and is done tastefully but ultimately falls short. There’s a minimalism to the original (like with all of Carpenters best scores) which is what makes it so effective. Revell steers away from that approach and utilises the City of Prague Orchestra is a solid effort but nothing more than that.

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Pitch Black & The Chronicles Of Riddick

I really quite like Pitch Black, but I’m not really taken with The Chronicles Of Riddick. But, hey, they can’t all be winners, can they?

The score for Pitch Black is pretty relentless stuff, full of electronic madness and percussion, with some unsettling vocals thrown in for good measure. It works in the context of the film brilliantly, as it unnerves and keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are quieter passages for variety, but overall, the score is at its best when it focuses on the action.

Sadly, a CD version isn’t widely available, but import copies can be obtained that bizarrely feature Revell’s score for the Bride Of Chucky.

Revell returned for the sequel and does away with much of the madness, opting for a greater focus on orchestral moodiness, which does suit the material, but ultimately is quite forgettable. There’s an attempt at grounding the score with Middle Eastern styles and instrumentation, as well as utilising the leitmotif from Pitch Black.

It’s big and it’s loud, but somehow, despite that, lacks the immediacy and charm of its predecessor.

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