Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Music Composed by Alex Heffes
Distributed by Silva Screen Records
Music can make or break a film. We’ve heard the iconic (“Tubular Bells” and the theme from Psycho) to the odd (witness anything scored by John Carpenter). The worst thing that can happen to a film soundtrack is that it contains nothing memorable whatsoever. Sadly, this is the case with many movie soundtracks in recent memory, and The Rite is no exception. Whether or not you liked Mikael Hafstrom’s The Rite, the soundtrack deserves scrutiny of its own.
The Rite is a movie about a crisis of faith that comes to a head with exorcisms and Anthony Hopkins CGI’d into monstrous proportions. The music attempts to reflect the broody nature of the film and tries to give listeners a few audible cues as to the direction and tension delivered onscreen. And in many cases it succeeds. Written and conducted by Alex Heffes, the score is deftly performed by a full orchestra, a few pianos, and a choir. The ability and talent of the musicians is never suspect, as they play their parts with wonderful conviction and flawless execution. There are many moments in the various tracks where a listener would be hard pressed to identify the instruments as live and not some type of synth-pad with electro-perfect production. However, a close listen pulls out the individual string parts with amazing clarity and beauty.
But the performers could only do so much with what they were given. True, this is as emotional a score as anyone is likely to find, but in the end it sounds like well-performed generic music. From the haunting piano at the beginning to the mournful wail of the choir, the music is predictable and uninspired. Plucked strings for chilling moments? Check. Choir to show religious fervor? Double check. Harp and flute for the crisis of faith? Yep. It’s all there. But what it lacks is that “signature” sound to which every movie score aspires but few achieve in today’s cinema. Instead we listen to pieces that sound like the opening strands from other films. From the obvious Masters of Horror riff to the requisite long rumbling bass line, there is little here that sounds original, or at least memorable.
On the whole the music is beautiful. The performances are stellar, and yes, it does seem to follow the general plot of the movie. But it also follows the plot of a thousand other movies and could easily be dropped in and substituted for any of them. It comes across as good background music for a haunted house/adventure/generic horror flick. One would be hard-pressed to hold this soundtrack up against any other and find something memorable.
3 out of 5
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