After scoring a set of period films – Season of the Witch (2011), and The Eagle [M] (2011) - Atli Örvarsson’s latest work somewhat revisits the world of grungy village life upset by primal threats, and the titular children in the Brothers Grimm fable Hansel and Gretel are now bounty hunters vengefully pursuing nasty witches.
Much of the opening cue pays homage to the film’s rustic folk setting, plus a slight nod to Danny Elfman’s own blend of rhythms and churning strings which are innately child-like. It’s a link that’s important to the story’s roots in the Grimm’s creepy kiddie mythology, but to contemporize the film Örvarsson adds a heavy metal guitar, rock rhythms, and periodic orchestral sweeps with heavy brass and strings.
Both the main theme’s child-like harmony (at its most ethereal in “Augsburg Burns”) and use of female vocals cover the film’s period setting, whereas the grungy electric chords and distortion allow Örvarsson to bring in contemporary drums. There are specific moments when action cues are propelled by a rapping Celtic drum, and in “Lost Children Crying, Vol. 2” there some nice layering between folk percussion, orchestral and electronic sounds, and bass pulses which saturate and recede in treacly sonic globs.
The album has a solid progression from theme statements to aggressive, doom-laden cues which shore up the inevitable confrontation between the titular bounty hunters and nefarious witches that are spoiling village peace. The score’s engineering features contemporary sonic gestures – grungy electric chords, distortion, and warbling tones – which are seamlessly blended with orchestral elements and increasingly bizarre vocal effects. (Örvarsson sort of pinches and warps the female voices like an electric guitar string.)
While ostensibly an action score with light folk and liturgical elements, Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters is a fairly solid, atmospheric work, and perhaps the only flaw is the final track which merely quotes all the main thematic and action components, but doesn’t really provide a wholly definitive musical statement.
A podcast interview with the composer is also available.
© 2013 Mark R. Hasan