Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Christopher Young: The Thriller

Christopher Young was born in 1957 in New Jersey.  Starting as a drummer, Young was first interested in both jazz and was later introduced to the music of Bernard Herrmann.  He graduated from Hampshire College in Massachusetts with a Bachelors degree in music.  He continued his studies with some graduate work at North Texas State University.  Falling in love with film music, he moved to Los Angeles and began taking classes at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) film school.

At UCLA, teacher/composer David Raksin became his mentor.  While there, he composed the score for a student film, "The Dorm that Dripped Blood" was eventually released in 1982, becoming Young's first Hollywood score.

He started out with a wide variety of scores - some in part by his classmates.  His would work on some sci-fi, some action and some horror scores to films like Def-Con 4 (1985), Wheels of Fire (1985), entering the horror world with A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985).  He composed a segment of The Twilight Zone reboot in 1986, and director Tobe Hooper's Invaders from Mars (1986), to which Young's score was replaced in part by a synthesized score by David Storrs.  It was more of Young's horror/thriller work that attracted director Clive Barker to his music, lending Young to compose the score to Barker's Hellraiser (1987), a turning point in Young's film career.  The Gothic orchestral style mixed with synthesizer effects became a standard for Young.  Naturally, he also scored the sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) with spectacular results.  Branching out for some of his TV movies, he scored the war drama Bat*21 (1988) and scored the sequel The Fly II (1989).

Scoring several films a year was not usual for Christopher Young, which continued into the 1990s.  For the crime drama Jennifer Eight (1992), his score was both rejected and then reinserted after Maurice Jarre's replacement score didn't work out.  In 1993 he worked with horror master George A. Romero on The Dark Half (1993).  Surprisingly it was his drama score to Murder in the First (1995), that remains one of his career highlights.  That same year he composed the scores to the action film Virtuosity (1995), and starting a collaboration with director Jon Amiel with the chilling thriller Copycat (1995).  Breaking his mold yet again, his score to the TV movie Norma Jean & Marilyn (1996) was nominated for an Emmy.

Young continued getting high profile films, notably Murder at 1600 (1997) and the action comedy with director Amiel, The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997).  With Hard Rain (1998), he was given a mainstream action score and reunited with Unforgettable (1996) director John Dahl for the gambling movie Rounders (1998).  1999 would be another year for Young to really show off his compositional chops, with Entrapment (1999) with director Amiel, and returned to horror with Urban Legend (1998).  He also fit a dramatic score nicely with the bevy of pop songs for The Hurricane (1999).

He used a jazzy, blues score for Wonder Boys (2000) and began a collaboration with director Sam Raimi, on The Gift (2000).  His scores became numerous in 2001, with a wide variety of styles for Sweet November (2001), co-composing Swordfish (2001) with electronic star Paul Oakenfold, crime comedy Bandits (2001), thriller The Glass House (2001).  His Celtic-like score to Lasse Hallstr√∂m's The Shipping News became one of Young's most melodic scores (following in the style of composers like Rachel Portman).  The score gave Young his first Golden Globe nomination.

Returning with Jon Amiel, he scored the action film The Core (2003), a score that remains a favorite.  Alongside Hans Zimmer and several other composers, Young wrote addition music for Something's Gotta Give (2003), which was put together after the original composer was dropped at the last minute.  He also composed the bluesy score to Runaway Jury (2003), and TV movie Something the Lord Made (2004).  For  last minute re-writes, Young was brought in by director Raimi for Spider-Man 2 (2004) after original composer Danny Elfman was unavailable.  Young brought his atmospheric horror writing to The Grudge (2004).  Back in thriller mode, he composed the score to The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and eventually the sequel, The Grudge 2 (2006).

Returning to the style of Hellraiser II, Young composed the score to Ghost Rider (2007), complete with blaring orchestra, electronic guitars, and Gothic-style choir.  Officially replacing Elfman, Young returned for Spider-Man 3 (2007) while still quoting the Elfman theme.  Additional cues were written by Deborah Lurie and John Debney, and the score has never had an album release.  He also re-teamed with Wonder Boys director Curtis Hanson for the drama Lucky You (2007).

Young's eerie music worked for Untraceable (2008) and The Uninvited (2009).  He showed that he was on top of his game with Raimi's Drag Me to Hell (2009), featuring a big orchestral sound and snippets of gypsy-inspired music.  Dramatically changing styles yet again, Young tackled the romantic drama Love Happens (2009) and touching score to Creation (2009) for director Amiel.  His jazz sensibilities and action scoring were used in the score for the video game The Saboteur (2009).

The mixed bag of jazz and Latin sounds fit well with The Rum Diary (2011), while his score to Priest (2011) returned to the Gothic blockbuster style with dazzling results.  With the 'Emily Rose' director, Young scored the horror flick Sinister.  His docket of films is ever-growing, with lots of thrillers coming.

His love for horror and thriller goes beyond the movies he scores, with his collection of autographs, masks and jack-o-lanterns.  When not composing, he has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor at USC teaching film scoring, given lectures and hosted events around scoring, and served as president of the Film Music Society.  He also helps film students get into the scoring business.  While his main recognition comes from one genre, Young has shown he can break the mold.  His thriller scores have elevated the genre, an even given melody in horror films.  For that, he remains of the best of the genre.

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