Evil Dead: The Game composers on bringing the grisly sounds of the franchise to a new generation
"You can't kill this franchise. You just can't."
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Evil Dead is an immensely important franchise to me. One of my first introductions to horror was this grisly yet comedic world filled with iconic characters like the chainsaw-wielding Ash and disgusting demons called Deadites. While I was far too young to properly articulate my excitement at the time, it's safe to say I owe a great deal of my love of horror entertainment to Sam Raimi's legendary series. Evil Dead 2, in particular, holds a very special place in my heart, especially when it comes to the score. I distinctly remember the evocative balance of tense dread and somber melancholy demonstrated by the film's music.
With the launch of Evil Dead: The Game just behind us, I recently had the opportunity to sit down with long-time Evil Dead composer Joseph LoDuca and Saber Interactive's in-house composer Steve Molitz to discuss the haunting melodies of this upcoming asymmetrical multiplayer horror title. As an astute Evil Dead fan and passionate music aficionado, it was an absolute treat getting a chance to discuss the recipe for an impactful horror soundtrack, the team's approach to bringing the quintessential sounds of Evil Dead to a modern audience, the significance of this franchise's legacy, and so much more.
Reinventing decades of Deadite devotion
Much like Ash's makeshift chainsaw hand, LoDuca has been gruesomely attached to Evil Dead's music for quite some time. LoDuca has been directly responsible for setting the ominous tone of the Evil Dead expanded universe, starting with lowkey sessions on the floor of Raimi's parents' den during the filming of the original film all the way back in 1984 and continuing through the television series Ash vs Evil Dead. Despite decades of devotion to this gore-laden franchise, LoDuca brimmed with genuine enthusiasm when I asked him what excited the storied composer about returning to the series with Evil Dead: The Game.
"You can't kill this franchise. You just can't," LoDuca chuckled. "For me, it's the gift that keeps on giving."
Witnessing LoDuca's face light up as he passionately shared his insights and experience with one of my favorite franchises was undeniably magical. "Even though I've done fantasy and action sitcoms and animated stuff, what's great about horror is there are no rules other than the fact that you're trying to instill dread. And for Evil Dead, there are ways to reinvent it," he said.
Despite LoDuca working on dozens of scores for standouts like Spartacus, Xena: Warrior Princess, and The Librarians, and the release of several Evil Dead games over the past few decades, Evil Dead: The Game was this composer's first foray into video game music composition. In collaboration with Molitz, LoDuca was allowed to flex his talents in a brand-new medium by crafting many of the main themes for Evil Dead: The Game, including the killer title track.
"I was lucky enough to be able to collaborate with Steve, and he was gentle with me in the way we would divide our responsibilities," LoDuca joked. "It was good. It was really good."
It was apparent that LoDuca genuinely appreciated Molitz's expertise in the world of video game music. "I think that even in the themes that I wrote, I tried to keep in mind that there's a certain level of clarity and excitement that a gamer has, in terms of experiencing the music, and I wanted to dip my feet into that world."
As someone with a great deal of professional experience composing music for a wide range of films, shows, and other pieces of media, I wanted to know if video games allowed LoDuca to experiment in ways not traditionally possible with film or television.
"I think what I always admire about being a game composer is that you're involved in inventing the world from the ground up in a way that as a TV composer, and as a film composer, I don't get to experience. Everybody goes off and shoots, they edit it, and then it's time for the music. That's not the case ever, I don't think with video games."
As soon as the game opens, the opening theme does a remarkable job of setting the unsettling tone of the entire experience. LoDuca and Molitz managed to create fresh music that feels ripped straight from the universe of Evil Dead. It also just feels fun, with the pair reinventing the haunting melodies of the franchise.
Bringing the hellish tones of Evil Dead to a new audience
With an ensemble cast of the most iconic and horrifying figures from Evil Dead mythos, in many ways, Evil Dead: The Game serves as an eclectic tribute to the series' horrifying legacy. This is markedly exciting for an enormous fan of Ash and his Necronomicon-centric misadventures like myself.
However, I begrudgingly understand that many potential players have no familiarity with the franchise whatsoever. I wanted to know what the team's approach was when it came to bringing the classic sounds of Evil Dead to a modern audience with this new video game. Molitz had plenty to share on the design philosophy for the game's music.
"When I first started working on the project, the development team was using Joe's music from Army of Darkness as a placeholder. That was my first introduction to seeing how the art style, environments, characters, and gameplay interacted with music," Molitz began. "I wasn't as much thinking 'how can I recycle this or repackage it?' I was thinking more, 'what are the qualities and nuances of these compositions that make me feel certain things within the Evil Dead universe?'"
As a fellow fan of Evil Dead and LoDuca's work, Molitz was careful to stress his respectful intentions with his interpretations of in-game music.
"The Evil Dead universe touches on so many different creative styles. You can be funny and quirky. You can be terrifying. Or you can be triumphant and heroic. It's all in there. I just took inspiration from all of Joe's brilliant compositions and took how they made me feel."
Molitz stressed the dynamic importance of Evil Dead as another significant inspiration to his work, and it's something you can absolutely feel while playing the game. Chaotic crescendos frequently align with the over-the-top executions and memorable moments of intense action. The in-match music of Evil Dead: The Game excellently captures the unpredictability of the franchise.
While LoDuca and Molitz both stressed their mission to deliver compelling music to any player regardless of their association with Evil Dead, the pair also understood the value of honoring the franchise's legacy. There's a fine line between successfully paying homage and becoming eerily derivative of any beloved series, which Molitz was cognizant of.
"I was personally paying homage to Joe just because I love his work and his sound. You can hear two seconds of the music he's done for Evil Dead and know what it is right away," Molitz smiled. "That's the highest compliment I think you can give a musician. I was emotionally paying homage because I was so thrilled to work on this. But when it came time to actually put pen to paper, I tried to just kind of get out of my own way and let the music manifest."
The keys to concocting an impactful horror soundtrack
A well-paced score is critical to the effectiveness of any piece of media, but it's imperative in the world of horror. The soundscape and tension hinging entirely on the musical component of a frightening film or game can genuinely make or break the experience, and having somebody like LoDuca on the project meant this expertise was very much present.
"It's great when you have a theme to play off of. I'm a sucker in that way. Sam Raimi is also a sucker for melodies. But in the current era, not so much. It could come off as old school, and we want to be scared by primordial stuff. So, you'll often find yourself in the realm of sound design. And that combination of music and sound has the power to make your skin crawl," LoDuca said.
The established composer was also quick to point out that there isn't a one-size-fits-all formula for crafting evocative horror music. "It'll depend on what the story is, and the direction of whoever's vision is that you're trying to meld with," he explained. "Very often with horror films, I didn't ask for an orchestra, but they gave me one because the rule was, we want to see popcorn fly, so you need the you need to summon those types of forces. However, I've been trying to sell the idea that just a few instruments can be just as creepy."
It was refreshing hearing LoDuca open up about the raw and unpredictable nature of composing music for any project. His candid insights provided some authentic humanity to the enigmatic air of Hollywood.
"I've done films where there have been very little melodic elements at all, and I've done horror films where we've used 19th-century orchestra-inspired music. It all just depends on how it all works together. Very often, you can write a piece of music, and somehow it syncs up with what's going on on-screen. In many ways, really just get lucky, and it remarkably works for the ages."
What to expect from the sounds of Evil Dead: The Game
After multiple interviews with the development team and over 50 hours of playtime so far, it's abundantly clear that Saber Interactive has managed to produce a game worthy of the franchise's legacy. Evil Dead: The Game is brimming with stunning visuals, powerful music, and meaty heaps of juicy gore.
While the multiplayer-centric gameplay loop might be enough for certain player types, Evil Dead: The Game legitimately has the potential to convert skeptics and maybe even spawn an entirely new generation of Ash enthusiasts. With buckets of blood, a boatload of Easter eggs, and countless nods to the series, the team has unquestionably delivered a compelling multiplayer experience. If you're a fan of the campy, visceral world of Evil Dead, this asymmetrical horror game is truly a meticulously crafted love letter.
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Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.