The 1980s and 1990s are filled with a host of low-budget horror films. Each have their blend of titillation and mutilation. One of these more on the adventure/comedy end was Fred Olen Ray’s (The Bay, Emmanuelle 2000) Evil Toons (1992). Shot over the period of little over a week, the film, with tongue firmly in cheek, focuses on four young, and sexy women who clean houses. In one, they find a book of magic incantations and this looks to the appearance of a bloodthirsty animated demon. Consider it a bad Roger Rabbit from the dark side sort of film and you are on the right path. Chuck Cirino (976-Evil, Chopping Mall, Munchie) is no stranger to the needs of such low-budget films and using a variety of electronic and synths crafts a score that begs for a realized orchestral performance, but which is the closest one could come with this budget. This was his seventh score (of 17!) for the director.
“The Talking Book” opens with a flurry of sounds and the sort of 80s/90s electronic horror scoring one might come to suspect. The organ adds a bit of the Gothic flavor (rather humorously in “Roxanne’s Body Possessed”) along with careful choral backdrops. Electric piano sounds add some nice jagged rhythmic propulsion here too as the opening lays out many of the tropes Cirino will explore. His “Main Titles” music is a fast-paced keyboard with blends of synth strings and repeated motives that add a nice forward motion. Haunting choral sounds and other interesting effects are swirled into “Arrival”. Cirino demonstrates here and throughout the score his deft strokes of adding creepy atmosphere and hitting the right punches. Quirkiness also pops up as we head into “Unloading-Up to the House”. The electronic swaths of sound help add a sense of impending nervousness or doom while the repeated motives float above them. Melodic ideas also help add to the interest here even when they are a bit slight as in “Megan’s Walk.” The presentation moves us through these various intriguing atmospherics (“The Basement”; “Translation”). Sometimes there are some neat little colors like the walking bass line in “Open Book”. Sometimes there is almost an Elfman-esque feel to the style in places like “Draggin’ Biff”, one of the rather interesting little blends of organ, jagged ostinato, percussion, and thematic statements. Cirino’s arpeggiated higher lines like those in “Back to the Basement” give way to eerie textures and a sort of walking ostinato pattern. “March to Death” also adds that little black humor with interesting effects and sounds that come to the foreground after the opening statement. “Megan’s Waking” blends some of the gentler melodic material with punctuating vocals and piano. There are two final end credit tracks which are certainly among the highlights of the score.
Dragon’s Domain has done another great service for fans of Cirino’s work. It is also another great demonstration of what composer’s were capable of doing with shoestring budgets and whatever equipment they might employ. It certainly is a must for fans of synth and electronic scores from this period