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Soundtrack review: Hangman (Frederik Wiedmann – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Hangman (Frederik Wiedmann – 2017)

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“Hangman” is a 2017 American crime thriller film directed by Johnny Martin and written by Charles Huttinger and Michael Caissie. The film stars Al Pacino, Karl Urban, Joe Anderson, Sarah Shahi, and Brittany Snow. Decorated homicide detective Ray Archer (Al Pacino) partners with criminal profiler Will Ruiney (Karl Urban) to catch one of the city’s notoriously vicious serial killers, who is playing a twisted version of murder using the child’s game… HANGMAN, while journalist Christi Davies (Brittany Snow) reports on the crime spree, shadowing the detectives. Frederik Wiedmann wrote the score.

It’s been too much without a Freddie Wiedmann score and as a fan I am happy to see him back in the fold and with a crime thriller no less. I remember how much I liked his score for the Nicolas Cage movie “Dying of the light” from a few years back. I liked it because it wasn’t *just* your regular dark thriller score, suspenseful and nothing more; I remember this instantly as the opening cue “The hangman” enriches that tense atmosphere with a warm cello motif and a fantasy score like female vocalisation; I am always particular to hearing a beautiful voice hum on a score, for greater emotional impact. Freddie Wiedmann uses this opening cue to tease what elements from his score I am going to enjoy best.

This doesn’t mean that the purely suspenseful moments aren’t well done; I have watched my fair share of crime thrillers, I might even say that they are right up there with disaster movies as my favourite genre and I know what kind of atmosphere works best, for me at least; the composer crafts it for the first time in “Only blood left behind”, a crumbled, almost dissolved misty sound that is as dark as it’s sneaky. It’s quiet enough to give space to the images and the investigations and intense enough to matter on its own. When the plot picks up the pace, so does the music as “Joey” gives me the feeling of a relentless and frantic pursuit.

Ayana Haviv’s voice brings on the wailing in “Suicide attempt” and hold it on its own. Emotional moments like this or the haunting piano and cello theme “An old case” are very clearly delimited in this score from the tense or scary ones. At the other end of the spectre there are horror like motifs like in the creepy “Underneath the cross” as the composer evokes the cruelty of the killer. “Slaughterhouse” is another gripping horror cue with the ticking sound and the dense, menacing texture. Like I was saying in the beginning, Freddie Wiedmann knows how to combine textural with thematic and make a score work both in context and as a standalone listening experience. Take a cue like “No rest” with a dense tension and a relentless pace that match how I think a gripping thriller should sound like.

Frederik Wiedmann took some of the dark aggressive paced sound he uses for his DC animation scores and made it work for a thriller. There were enough moments during “The hangman” when I also remembered the sound of 90s thrillers, thicker, more complex than the trend of quiet electronic suspense from the last few years. I enjoyed the story that the music told me.

Cue rating: 92 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 34 / 59

Album excellence: 58%

Highlights:
The Hangman
Only Blood Left Behind
Joey
Suicide Attempt
An Old Case
The Letter V
No rest
Inches away
My own reasons
girl in the alley
I failed you

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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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