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The Last Exorcism Part II by Michael Wandmacher (Review)

posted Sep 3, 2013, 7:55 AM by
Now this is what I’m talking about. Earlier this year when Michael Wandmacher scored The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia, his music furthered the path drawn by Robert Kral in 2009 for the original film with the utilization of an effectively unsettling template to which Wandmacher’s stylistic orchestral and industrial blend was added. But perhaps as is symptomatic of sequels or continuations, Ghosts of Georgia ultimately failed to establish a musical identity for Wandmacher in and of itself, restricting him to uninspired and lackluster territory. With The Last Exorcism Part II, whatever musical shackles bound Wandmacher have been completely shattered, and the result is at times both a spectacularly serene and subtly forceful work of pale introspection.

Nathan Barr (Hostel, True Blood) approached the scoring of the original A Last Exorcism with a minimalistic sound, jumping coolly between nearly ambient territories and throttling explosions of discordant melody. For Part II, Wandmacher remains true to Barr’s sonic interpretation, but wastes no time incorporating his own signature melding of elements both symphonically beautiful and mechanically obtrusive. Part II’s primary musical theme, a grievous yet supernatural piano melody, is introduced with leadoff track “The Chapel,” and is used numerous times throughout the score to great effect along with Wandmacher’s trademark applications. In “Seizure,” heavy industrial, mechanical dissonance rests upon a deep droning surge, but breaks into the main theme lent emotion by weaving string work. “Weightless” shoves an oddly disarming horn melody through a nebulous fog of bass, before the own pattern of “Seizure” is somewhat repeated and the track concludes with the main theme played by a singular piano. Aside from “The Chapel” theme, only one other of consequence appears throughout the album, on fourth track “No Nightmares.” An early favorite due to its calm-in-the-face-of-calamity peaceful vibe, the mellow string/woodwind melody evolves further in “Darkness Gone,” where an off-kilter version of the main theme in the background trades its piano sound in favor of a more manufactured keyboard effect, whereupon it merges with strings hearkening back to the sedated sound of “No Nightmares.”

Wandmacher’s less thematic material is equally impressive. The delicate female choral vocals of second track “Flashback” swirl around a rumble-laden backdrop, buffeted by ghostly whispering of voices unrecognizable. Screeching strings pummeled by momentary percussion in “Echo” are drowned by spectral drone, followed up by the slow-motion deathly howl in “Carnal Urges” being replaced by echoing piano notes. In “The Lion’s Jaw,” mysteriously elegant yet looming female vocals implode to deeply-buried chants as high-pitched strings become more forceful and twisted, and the mechanical percussion cues of accompanying track “Great Plans For You” lend a zany but scant pace to shaky string work and a pulsing tinnitus, like a broken metallic heartbeat. 

The Last Exorcism Part II’s most consistent delivery and strongest cohesion are displayed on the album’s final six tracks, which account for nearly half of its forty-three minutes. “The Real Gift” opens with a quaint piano melody before rumbling ambience a la the Paranormal Activity films can be heard; frightfully gentle strings then mercilessly build before electronic, scathing percussion backpedals the sound. “The Demon Loves You” thrusts forth and pulls back multiple elements in equal measure: background piano, hair-raising percussion, and deep, cavernous ambience, then employs electronic-sounding female choral patterns. “Devil’s Rule,” a short excursion, pulls the listener as if by an invisible tether alongside an oppressive yet soothing female vocal surge. “Salt on the Floor” uses the main theme as a prophetic bid, until layers of strings and horns produce a waveform backdrop, before dancing again with the main theme, and so on, louder and louder, until “The Ritual” begins. The longest track on the album, “The Ritual” introduces whispering horns that grow in strength and suspense until struck with a searing string cacophony, shattering pulses giving way to plodding, murderous percussion, and intensely haunting female vocals bleeding into weird howling effects akin to otherworldly sounds in Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill 3. Once the denouement of “The Ritual” concludes on a horn-based version of the main theme, final track “After the Séance” circles back to the sound of “The Chapel,” leaving the listener inexplicably and unexplainably drained despite only a few decibel-saturated sequences. 

With The Last Exorcism Part II, Michael Wandmacher has found a clear musical niche and inserted himself into the upper echelon of horror film score composers. In the same way that Christopher Young did with Sinister and Roque Banos did with Evil Dead, Wandmacher has instilled …Part II with his own identifiable brand of deft musicianship and masterful proficiency. Though The Last Exorcism Part II leans more towards organic and writhing textural ambivalence and eerie atmosphere than the pounding and harsh clamor typical of modern horror film scores, it’s no less a powerful entry in both Wandmacher’s catalog and the recent horror score subgenre. Gratitude to Screamworks records for releasing this gem of an album!