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Unexpectedly classy score seems to go beyond the call of duty

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Album cover copyright (c) 2007 WKM Productions, LLC; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall

There have been countless teen slasher films since Scream - most of them awful - and they continue to make unbelievable amounts of money even now at least one or two are released every week.  The latest - and probably the worst-titled - is I Know Who Killed Me, starring Lindsay Lohan in a rare release from rehab.  The main reason to see it is reportedly that it features lots of topless young ladies - and frankly, that's reason enough for me.  The downside is that every review I can find says it is utterly awful beyond words.

It is surprising, therefore, that a film which apparently is even worse than most of its ilk should receive what is probably the classiest score in the genre's history.  Loving homages to Herrmann and Chopin abound in Joel McNeely's fine score, which goes well beyond the call of duty and is one of those film scores which is surely best enjoyed while trying to remove any association it may have with its film.  Its opening, "Prelude for a Madman", features impassioned string writing a bit like The Ghost and Mrs Muir - and is one of the better Herrmann homages I've heard.  "Duality" is extremely creepy, using both electronic and acoustic effects to create a truly unsettling air.

"Fairytale Theme" is not the sweet piece you may infer from its name - it certainly has a childlike quality, but there is an unmistakable menace sitting beneath the surface.  The piano solo (by Klaus Berhmal) is exquisite, really bringing out the emotion in the excellent piece.  The piano plays a pivotal role in this score - it floats around "End of Innocence" (a cue with a slight hint of John Williams in suspense mode) beautifully, with McNeely using the orchestra somewhat sparingly in accompaniment.  This adds an unexpectedly clear nature to the music, with the composer able to wring real emotion from it.  

There's certainly real emotion in "A Mother's Grief", whose anguished beauty is again Herrmannesque - it turns into slightly more standard fare for this kind of film, but even here McNeely's command of the orchestra stands him in far better stead than the far less talented composers who usually score this kind of thing.  "Spontaneous Bleed" seems the piano now being used almost as a jabbing motion, signifying the inevitable on-screen, and again it's very effective.  The score's other main feature is introduced in "Going Home", with a simply beautiful wordless female vocal.  Ages ago someone said you can always tell the most vapid reviewers of film music because they describe it as being "haunting" - well, I've never been afraid to be vapid, and there is no finer adjective here.  "The Mirror" marks the first time McNeely really unleashes his orchestral forces on a greater scale, and it is so much more effective for that - instead of laying everything on strong right from the start, there is always the feeling that the music is building to something, and so it proves.  The action piece "Dad Dies" is wonderfully dark and propulsive, and "Death of Norquist" even more frantic and exciting, with wonderful piano writing.  

While McNeely does sometimes succumb to the flashy tricks often found in these releases, these are occasional and this score is almost unbelievably classy and intelligent for the most part.  It proves (again) that McNeely is one of the greatest of the unheralded film composers of our time, and it's a tragedy that he isn't working on more high-profile fare than the direct-to-video Disney sequels he usually works on (which almost always boast wonderful scores).  While it doesn't feature the kind of melodic treats many will associate with McNeely from when he burst onto the scene in the early 1990s, it is mature and grown-up music - and comes highly recommended to fans of that type of film music.  One of the greatest surprises of the year - I Know Who Killed Me is an engaging, intelligent, thoroughly-recommended score.


  1. Prelude for a Madman (:54)
  2. Duality (1:30)
  3. Fairytale Theme (2:15)
  4. A Daughter is Dead (1:02)
  5. End of Innocence / Aubrey is Gone (1:43)
  6. A Mother's Grief (3:36)
  7. Search for Aubrey (1:48)
  8. The Bus Stop (1:21)
  9. Spontaneous Bleed (1:34)
  10. Going Home (1:51)
  11. Jennifer's Room (1:27)
  12. Some People Get Cut (1:29)
  13. Investigating Stigmata (1:41)
  14. The Mirror (2:26)
  15. The Graveyard (1:42)
  16. I Know Who Killed Me (:56)
  17. The House (3:20)
  18. Dad Dies (2:25)
  19. Death of Norquist (1:43)
  20. Prelude / Reunited (3:19)
  21. Chopin: Valse Brillante (5:01)