Although Jeff Grace has scored a number of horror films, the black comedic style of I Sell the Dead shows the composer in a much lighter & happier mood, using less grim experimental techniques and shrillness, and opting for a quirky title theme that evokes pure skullduggery.
The score is meant to capture the comedic nuances of the actors as they dig up cadavers, confront zombies, and try and outwit a ruthless rival gang who ply the same grave-robbing skills for profit. Grace’s main theme is built on top of a steady rhythm, somewhat reminiscent of Nino Rota’s carnivalesque themes for Fellini, with low brass and nervous, fluttering ornamentation from flutes and clarinets.
“Wake Snatching” is a more diffuse theme variation where Grace uses an Irish fiddle jig to underscore the rapid corpse-snatching during a busy wake, and the rustic acoustic instruments perfectly capture the energy of the caper and chase, as well as the grungy atmosphere of the 19th century period.
Most of the score is derived from the pulsing skulking motif, with the tempo often broken up or frozen for brief pauses, and short woodwind flourishes punctuating the misanthropic characters as their earnest attempts to make a living are confounded by undead cadavers.
“A What Witch?” is drunken theme variation with soft oomp-papa keeping the pace, and the occasional twang from a rubbery mouth harp, whereas other cues are reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith’s orchestral comedy writing, such as the use of loose tempi and woodwinds to deepen the absurdity of characters caught in socially improper situations (“Valentine Kelly”).
At 44 mins., MovieScore Media’s CD presents the bulk of the score, and it’s a fun, mordant ride as Grace uses his brilliance with orchestras to craft a work that playfully contrasts light themes with sometimes dark and dissonant imagery (“Guts for Garters”), delves into tongue-in-cheek silliness (such as the up-tempo “A Hard Slog,” with sliding notes and harpsichord), or aims for more straight-faced horror in the eerie “A Foot?” with multiple actions from brass, percussion, and strings gnashing their way through a blend of comedic and horrific statements before a soft fadeout.
An interview with composer Jeff Grace is also available.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan