Spring 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Marc Bridle
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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The Ring / Ring 2 - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack  
Music composed by Hans Zimmer
  Additional music by Martin Tillman, Jim Dooley, and Henning Lohner
Additional Credits: Fiachra Trench and Gavin Greenaway (Conductors), Anthony Pleeth, and Martin Tillman (Cello)
  Available on Decca Music/Universal B0004405-02
Running Time: 57:43
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When writer Koji Suzuki was creating his very popular novel in Japan, dealing with the urban horror legend of a cursed video tape that, when viewed, starts a seven-day countdown to its very viewer's horrible death, nobody could have imagined then what would have followed.

Being a story whose concept involves more of a supernatural, heavy threat rather than the usual slasher horror movies, it affected everyone who came into contact with it. The story was transferred to the big screen in Japan, in the 1998 hit film Ringu with an instant popularity which led to a sequential series of novels, three movies and a TV series. Added to the franchise, a bunch of other Japanese and Chinese film productions have shared very similar plots, directly influenced by the huge cult success of the Ring movies that along with relevant films from the past, led to the emergence of what's now called 'Asian Horror Cinema'.  This very buzz inevitably moved into American cinema, with Fear Dot Com. Despite the harsh critique director Gore Verbinski got for his American version, by devotees of the original Japanese films, who stated that its plot was incoherent and of lesser quality than the originals, the movie still made a huge impact. All this because it was, at the time, a fresh and original urban legend, carried into a film that was well-performed and executed. Another American version, in the form of a sequel was inevitable and, altough few people actually expected it, the director of the original Japanese movie, Hideo Nakata, returned. Ring Two, takes the main characters who survived the first cycle of events from Seattle to Astoria, Oregon, where another new curse begins.

For the scoring duties, Hans Zimmer was assigned to the original film, resulting in a very effective, dark and moody score with strong traces of minimalism. However, no official CD release of the score was ever issued with a resulting 'promo/bootleg' version of the first score circulating among film music aficionados, especially Zimmer and Media Ventures-fans. The first version (by 'TIL Music Group') was made from the first leaked version of the score and it consisted of 8 main cues. Later on, a fan-created suite was added to that very CD, resulting in a 33-minute disc. Over-excitement and 'hunger' for this 'promo' led to more versions of the CD being created, all with different artwork, rendering the fan-made release into a highly collectable cult-status item.

When the new movie (Ring Two) was released, Universal acknowledged that the time had come to finally release both the original and sequel scores together. Doing it through Decca in 2005, this album is currently the first commercial release of music from either of the two films, and most importantly, for Zimmer fans and collectors of the bootlegs from the first score, the official CD offers a very strong and effective arrangement of music and of course, in clearer sound quality. However, there's slight problem for those who want to know which piece was used in which movie, as on this CD there's no actual detail - aside from some track titles - to tell where each pieced was used; the result is various suite-cues that mix perfectly well on CD - and make up for a flawless listening experience- but which at the same time will disappoint those wanting clear-cut track listings.

For the score for Ring (and Ring Two) Zimmer along with Martin Tillman and Henning Lohner, who stepped in for Ring Two with additional music writing on the existing Zimmer themes, built their work around a delicate, and fragile 8-note main theme, first performed by eerie tickling piano on the opening track 'The Well' - coincidentally, the best track on this release as it manages in its 11'23" duration to cover all the basic elements of the score. The primal musical core of the whole work is the piano, a violin and two cellos, a fact that becomes evident from the very first moments.

The whole score progresses in the same way via continuous renditions and variations of themes. Notable are four primal techniques Zimmer utilizes for the score: The first is the violent and extremely tense sawing-like playing of the strings, notably the cellos, on the lower register, resulting in an original way to create unease, tension, dissonance and agony. The second one, is having the two cellos performing the same theme but in asynchrony, that is, not simultaneously but on a different phase and time. The third one is the use of the eerie and gloomy electric cello, and the final one, is the strong hammered-like playing of the piano on it's lower register, when not playing the main theme, but when performing along with the relevant, corresponding cello playing.

The addition of four closing pieces, remixes of themes heard previously, flirt with rock - electric guitars, drum beats, loops, electronics and even a lounge, trip hop feeling added in some places. It might sound strange, but if those pieces are taken purely for what they are (that is, not included in the films' soundtrack, but added to the commercial release strictly as listening experience-enhancers) then the result can be both welcome and fresh.

The score to Ring and Ring Two, as presented on this album, is a very interesting, dark and elegant musical work with virtually no boring underscore moments at all, a work which constantly keeps the listener's attention and which by moving from ominous, violent orchestral bursts to emotional melodic passages  manages to entertain and please. A score which doesn't fall into the trap of the typical, atmospheric modern horror / thriller score, it relies mostly on percussion and ambient sounds (either orchestral or electronic) rather than actual themes that would eventually lead nowhere. Instead, Zimmer manages to offer a fresh and original approach to what could have been a simple, mediocre work. Taking all the best elements from Christopher Young's long-time expertise into the genre along with distinct characteristics of Zimmer's own Hannibal (although here presented in a simpler and less complex way) and The Pledge (with Klaus Badelt), Zimmer, with the aid of his fellow co-composers, succeeds in adding his own memorable score to the thriller genre.

Demetris Christodoulides

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