Italian horror movie music spooks Ian Berriman out.
Ian Berriman, Reviews Editor
Tarantulas chewing a man’s face off; a zombie wrestling a shark; a woman puking up her intestines… The films of the late Italian horror director Lucio Fulci are awash with outlandish gore and dream- like weirdness, and the haunting music of Fabio Frizzi is the perfect accompaniment to their ( often literally) eye- popping delights. For me, he’s up there with fellow countryman Ennio Morricone and the likes of Bernard Herrmann.
The composer’s eclectic CV includes Westerns, ballet, a children’s musical and – particularly in recent times – a great deal of work for TV. But it’s his five soundtracks for Fulci – from 1979’ s Zombie Flesh Eaters to 1990’ s A Cat In The Brain – that he’s remembered for, and rightly so. Asked what makes a great horror score, Frizzi explained, “The music must work as an amplification of feelings and must help the audience enter the mechanism of the surrealistic”. At its best, that’s exactly what his music does.
His trademarks? Thudding electronic percussion that sounds like a heartbeat; mournful, tremulous synthesisers. In his Zombie Flesh Eaters theme, these combine with an eerily inhuman “choir” that’s actually a Mellotron – the early tape- strip keyboard famously used by The Beatles on “Strawberry Fields Forever”. I also love the acoustic guitar motifs of City Of The Living Dead ( as a young man, Fulci studied classical guitar). But if you only listen to one Frizzi score, make it 1981’ s The Beyond. Take the cue “Voci Dal Nulla”, which melds prog rock flute and military drums with ominous The Omen- style chanting; listening to it makes you feel like you’re being marched to your doom by a devilworship cult.
Pleasingly, Frizzi’s in vogue nowadays. Labels like the excellent Death Waltz Recordings have reissued key scores on vinyl, while musicians like Umberto have homaged his retro synths. But what I’d really like to see is Frizzi scoring a full- length feature film again. The composer’s favourite movie is Blade Runner. A sequel in the works. In a 2012 interview, Frizzi joked, “If Vangelis aren’t available… Ridley, I’m here!” Yeah, how about it Ridley?