×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Music of ‘Resident Evil’: From Moody to Heavy Metal

Unusually for a series of genre films based on a video game, The “Resident Evil” franchise has retained a consistent look, tone, primary star, and central creative figurehead over the course of six films. Yet musically, the series has hit a number of surprising notes: even as the franchise stays true to its dark and moody aesthetic, its composers have found plenty of room to stretch.

When Paul W.S. Anderson launched the “Resident Evil” film franchise back in 2002, the property already had a well-defined musical lineage with its namesake video games, thanks to the work of composer Masami Ueda in particular. But Anderson opted to go in an entirely different direction for his film. At the time, the director spoke of his love for early John Carpenter music, particularly the aggressive, electronically driven scores for “Assault on Precinct 13” and “The Fog.” He described the ideal soundscape for his adaptation as resembling “early Carpenter, but for the 21st Century. We needed something very different from the straight composer route.”

Appropriately, he turned to industrial rocker Marilyn Manson — making his first, and, to date, only venture into film music — and paired him with the more seasoned maestro Marco Beltrami, hot off his scores for “Scream” and “Mimic.” The two turned in a score that was heavier on atmospherics than melody, to be sure, there was a strong central theme, but the score was more concerned with conveying unease than harmony, with plenty of spooky soundscapes and jagged blasts of synthesized heavy metal guitar.

But for 2004 sequel, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” the series took a different direction yet again. Composed by Jeff Danna, the second installment featured a classically arranged score with plenty of strings and themes, while still retaining the industrial abrasiveness of the first. Listen to the early action cue, “Alice Battles the Nemesis,” and you hear dissonant string arrangements married to a thunderous, high velocity-bpm electronic drumbeat; or “Panic at the Gate,” which balances booming brass riffs with all manner of squeaks, squeals, and other sounds of synthesized terror.

The third entry, “Resident Evil: Extinction,” turned to another industrial rock veteran with a horror pedigree: Charlie Clouser, who put in years as a keyboardist with Nine Inch Nails before scoring for the “Saw” franchise.

The fourth and fifth “Evils” saw some continuity in the scoring department, both handled by transmedia company tomandandy, which kept things firmly in the grim mold of previous entries.

For its upcoming sixth installment, Anderson and Co. will welcome yet another new composer, and judging from his resume, he ought to find the film both perfectly in his wheelhouse, and an opportunity to stretch into some interesting directions. Composing duties for “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” will be shouldered by Paul Haslinger, late of AMC’s similarly zombie-themed “Fear the Walking Dead.” Prior to that gig, the Austrian-born scorer put in plenty of time with both video games and horror films, composing for several installments of the “Underworld” franchise, as well as serving as an arranger for Graeme Revell’s score to “Laura Croft: Tomb Raider,” back when “Evil” was first getting off the ground.

Haslinger’s discography is an intriguing one: prior to working in film, he spent half a decade with electronic music pioneers Tangerine Dream, and also has strong bonafides in experimental composition. If any composer can send the franchise out on a high note, Haslinger ought to be more than up to the task.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Takes Beatles' 'White Album'

    Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Gets Back to '68 by Touring Beatles' 'White Album'

    The 50th anniversary re-release of 1969’s “Abbey Road” may be just days away, but that doesn’t mean Beatles fans have been there and done that when it comes to celebrating ’68. Todd Rundgren, the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz, Badfinger’s Joey Molland and several other name musicians of a certain vintage are teaming up to go out [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • Saweetie

    Saweetie's 'My Type' Is a Smash, but Is it Too Provocative for Top 40?

    Saweetie’s “My Type” is a smash. The high-energy, up-tempto, bad bitch anthem has proven to be an undeniable force. Having won the hearts of TikTok users, radio (rhythmic, urban and now Top 40, logging more than 81,000 combined spins, according to Mediabase) and streaming, where BuzzAngle Music records 160 million U.S. streams to date and [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Peter Coyote Riffs on 'Country Music' and How He Admires and Challenges Ken Burns

    Though an instantly recognizable face from films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Erin Brockovich,” it is Peter Coyote’s voice — a coolly authoritative baritone with a Zen master’s holy roll — that has endeared him to documentary lovers and makers. Alrhough director-writer Alex Gibney used Coyote’s wisened narration for “Enron: [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Reaches Deal With Record Labels on Music Videos

    SAG-AFTRA has reached an agreement with the major record labels on a three-year successor contract to their music video agreement. The union announced Friday that the deal achieves important economic and safety gains for performers working in music videos. Details of the new agreement will not be released until after it is reviewed by the [...]

  • Album Review: Samantha Fish’s ‘Kill or

    Album Review: Samantha Fish’s ‘Kill or Be Kind’

    At a time when rock music remains in a deep recession — to put it politely — there are few more encouraging sights to see than a badass, slide-guitar-wielding female from Kansas City lobbing some blueswailing rock and roll. That’s exactly what Samantha Fish has been serving up for the better part of a decade, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content