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Soundtrack review : 108 Rois Demons (Rolfe Kent – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review : 108 Rois Demons (Rolfe Kent – 2015)


When a score makes an entrance like this one I am happy because I love giving 5 stars from the beginning. It sometimes happens that it’s only my enthusiasm and the score eventually fades away but I will still have those opening moments and the hope they brought. The score in question is “108 rois demons” (“108 demon kings”) which oddly enough appears on Wikipedia as a family adventure animation film. What kind of families do the people who wrote the stub have? Anyway the story is set in 12th century China and that’s always a premise for a good score. Rolfe Kent wrote the music and he is the one who composed the main theme for everybody’s favorite serial killer, Dexter.

What I notice from the first few cues is that the Chinese influence in the music is shy and delicate. I hear some traditional Chinese strings but they sometimes get lost among the other instruments. “Prince Duan watches spirits” has that sound but I feel as if it’s not authentic enough. It’s a breezy cue which does enough to put me in a good mood.

But after this cue the score goes into a territory I don’t enjoy visiting very much. I‘ve never been able to connect with silly and light comedic tracks that come and go and leave no mark. Not only do I not enjoy this type of film music but I might even get frustrated and impatient. I imagine the director probably asked for compositions like these to underline the comedic effect of some scenes (and again… “108 demon kings”?) and Rolfe Kent delivered. After five or six cues like these my mood is not as jolly as it was when “Titles” opened this album. The score seems to have settles in that balloon easy zone and I will have a hard time reconnecting with it.

I cling to a cue like “Evening fire” because it changes the mood and exhibits some emotion with the sweet guitar melody and the melancholic background. I find some joy in the playful “Cai Jing disturbs a stroll” but I am just grasping at straws. It’s obvious that this score was not for me. Maybe I expected something more emotional, more Chinese, more meaningful. The music just didn’t do it for me and I couldn’t connect with the score. I am certain though that in the context of the movie “108 rois demons” works and fits the director’s vision. For a standalone listen though it didn’t do much for me. Just like one balloon out of a bunch, the music floated away until it disappeared.

Cue rating: 67 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 0 / 59

Album excellence: 0%

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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