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Claudio Simonetti's Goblin perform 'Demons' at Hollywood Theater 10.25 - Review

By MATT HANSEN // Major composer of Italian Horror movies plays live score to the 1985 Lamberto Bava film 'Demons'

Photos courtesy of Shaun Astor / Wyrd War

If you've never heard of Wyrd War, they are film programmers at the Hollywood Theater, an art gallery, a record label, and as of recently founders of a music festival called The Dungeon is Alive. With their fingers in so many pies, Wyrd War is constantly breaking new ground with their events, and at the heart of what they do is the celebration of strange and wonderful films. Whether it’s showcasing movie posters from Ghana, booking special cast and director appearances, or re-releasing rare movie soundtracks, Wyrd War are the punk rock underground of Portland’s cinema culture.

Fall is definitely the time when the planets align for Wyrd War; their past selections of films for the month of October are a salute of curated perfection to horror films. And when Wyrd War brings together not only a movie and a cult audience, but a movie and the soundtrack’s composer, the power of Wyrd War to entertain is surely at its mightiest. This year Wyrd War chose Lamberto Bava’s 1985 film Demons as it’s vessel to bring storied Italian composer Claudio Simonetti to the Hollywood Theater for a performance of the Demons score. Simonetti was also in Portland last December for another Wyrd War event where he thrilled audiences with the live score to the 1977 supernatural horror film, Suspiria.

Demons is a film which poses the question, ‘what if a horror movie caused the apocalypse?’ and answers it with an exercise in 1980s horror extremism. The film is not only important as Simonetti’s first film composing as a solo artist, it also features Portland’s own, Geretta Geretta. Geretta a historical figure herself for being the first black woman to ever be crowned Rose Princess in Portland’s Rose Festival. And while Geretta was sorely missed in attendance, there were Wildland Firefighters among the audience, invited as a thank you for their service. Though Demons may not be the first film you would choose to relax to on a night off, that is unless you crave the explosive paring of swinging a samurai sword while white knuckle riding a dirt bike.

Musically the score to Demons had to be translated for Simonetti’s live touring band, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. The original score was made with only synthesizers and drum machines, making Simonetti like the John Carpenter of Italian horror movies. Also like Carpenter, Simonetti has recently given us new versions of his classic themes and film music with up to date arrangements.  When performed live, Demons is now a mix of metal, synth, and a foundation of classical string music. The film’s theme, “Dèmon,” starts in breakbeats of drum machines and italo disco rhythm that descends into a riff of nefarious pipe organ.

Simonetti and his band build the suspense of every scene, only to stop on a dime in impressive fashion as the scene changes. Far less of an atmospheric sound than Simonetti’s work on Suspiria, guitarist Daniele Amador had plenty of buzz saw shredding to supplement the films gruesome visuals. Drummer Federico Margoni lead the band at every turn, sometimes with only a stark kick drum note that you could mistake for the urgency of your own heartbeat. Simonetti’s command of the keys is virtuosic in its ability to hold the ominous tension of the film and seamlessly break it in straightforward rock intensity, giving fans a reimagined and varied version of the films audio.

Post credits, Simonetti and crew treated the audience to a concert spanning decades of Simonetti’s work, and even dipping into the catalog of other composers like John Carpenter. Seeing Simonetti curate scenes from movies like Dawn of the Dead into a music video to accompany the concert performance is thrilling for fans as it continues the excitement they know from their favorite films. When Simonetti launched into a rendition of the theme to John Carpenter’s Halloween, it was a befitting celebration of the holiday that is every horror fans ‘reason for the season.’ As long as Simonetti will keep coming to Portland, he will remain king of everything the Wyrd War following holds dear. Thanks again Claudio, and Happy Halloween!



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