Tag Archives: John Debney


Twenty-nine years ago, Disney released a movie that I think even surprised them because it became so successful and popular so quickly. Hocus Pocus, has over the years attained a kind of cult following, and I have to say I am one of those followers, with the movie being essential viewing at Halloween, for myself and my children, well that family tradition has now been passed onto to them and their children, and Hocus Pocus is probably a film that we all just love unconditionally. It seemed as soon as the end credits began to roll in 1993, audiences all over the world were crying out for a sequel and let’s face it , it deserved to have one.

Alas after hearing so many times that a sequel was in the works, I as did many gave up on Disney.  But they say that all good things come to those who wait, and now streaming on Disney + is Hocus Pocus 2, I thought it strange that it should be released a full month before Halloween, but Disney know what they’re doing right? After watching the movie, I did feel that it was a little less affecting as the original, and there were certain scenes and lines I also felt were a little hammy. But its Hocus Pocus guys, its fine. The Sanderson sisters are back, and its about time.

Returning to reprise their original roles are Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson, Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson and Doug Jones as William Billy Butcherson who was Winfred’s sweetheart and apparently cheated on her with her sister Sarah. Sadly, as you’ll find out when you see the movie, these are the only original characters that have survived, there is no Thackery Binx, no Dani, who was played by Thora Birch, Omri Katz who played Max or Vinessa Shaw who portrayed Allison are nowhere to be seen, but there is a black cat in the cast called cobweb.

There is however a fresh cast of faces and characters, that ably carry on the legacy and the atmosphere that has been established by the original film. I did feel at times that the set piece songs were not necessary, especially when we see the Sanderson sisters resurrected in the forbidden wood, which kind of cheapens the whole coming back to life thing and the witches returning to impose their evil on Salem, turning it into a cabaret. They also perform One Way or Another, (I hate that song) but that is kind of a clever inclusion to the film’s storyline. Ok, Hocus Pocus (1993) purists, will probably be thinking what’s happened here, but like I always say its horses for courses, and it is an effective updating of the Hocus Pocus franchise.

Three hundred years pass in the movie, with the story opening in the town of Salem in 1653, which I thought worth doing as it tells us more of how the Sanderson sisters became witches, giving us more of a background to their relationship and how it was that Winnie became the prominent one in the trio of spell makers.

Hocus Pocus 2, has to it all the comedic and dramatic content that the original had, plus it has a degree more sensitivity, showing an emotional side to certain characters, let’s just say that you will believe a witch has a heart, even feel sorry for her and that a spell book can shed a tear.

It also effectively opens a new Hocus Pocus chapter as it introduces us to another trio of young witches, and that I hope will be another story that Disney might explore in the future (hopefully before 2051). Could this be the end of the Sanderson sisters? What do you think? Trick or Treat?


The musical score is by the Hocus Pocus composer John Debney, who has rekindled many of his original thematic material to enhance and support the three witches’ new adventure, he also works into the fabric of the new score the haunting theme as composed by James Horner, Come Little Children, as performed by Sarah Jessica Parker back in 1993 as her character Sarah Sanderson calls to the children of Salem.

John Debney has fashioned a wonderfully mischievous, sweeping, and raucous sounding work for the sequel. The now familiar central theme becoming the foundation and the mainstay of the work, the string section working overtime driving the work at pace, whilst the composer adds percussive elements, rasping and powerful brass flourishes and stabs, and heart felt woods.

There is darkness and light purveyed by the music, drama, tension and a jaunty and comedic air. The composer coloring and adding depth, atmosphere, and emotion to the proceedings. The soundtrack album we are told will be getting a compact disc release, but it is already available on the likes of Spotify, a twenty-eight-track recording, which consists of eighteen score cues, and nine songs, some of which are originals such as The Witches are Back performed by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy. But it is without a doubt John Debney’s music that shines within this movie and makes for great listening away from it. The film and the soundtrack are highly recommended.




Directed by Tom Shadyac, BRIAN BANKS is a movie that tells the true story of, an American football line-backer who was falsely accused of rape. The movie stars Aldis Hodge in the title role. With the help of a lawyer from the California Innocence Project Banks was cleared of all the charges that were stacked up against him and eventually returned to playing NFL football and finally joining the Atlanta Falcons. This is a compelling and gritty drama which is superbly directed and also given credence and authenticity via performances from Hodge and his co-star Greg Kinnear in the role of his defence lawyer Justin Brooks. There are also additional convincing portrayals from, Melanie Liburd as Karina, Xosha Roquemore as Kennisha Rice, Tiffany Dupont as Alissa Bierhoel and Sherri Shepherd as Leomia. The musical score composed by John Debney adds wonderful atmospherics to the story being acted out on screen and although Debney’s music is sometimes subtle and minimalistic the composer still adds much to the overall impact of the film’s storyline. It is a score that I would not say is theme laden, but this is no way a slight on the excellent compositions by Debney and the way in which he masterfully punctuates and underlines the movie perfectly.




When I say its not theme laden, I do not mean that is theme-less. On the contrary, the opening cue FREEDOM is a heartrending piece in which the composer utilises a haunting yet stirring wordless female vocal. This theme re-surfaces at certain points within the score and it does have a certain Morricone quality to it, it also brings the score to an almost triumphant end in the cue, PEOPLE CONCEDE THE MATTER, in which the composer treats us to the vocal performance and embellishes this with tantalising and charming nuances, making the track totally absorbing and   The score although at times subtle is also brooding and powerful, the composer’s minimal approach apart from a handful of cues that is, not only benefiting the movie but also being an enjoyable and entertaining listen on its own. Within the movie its like Debney’s score is another character or another actor on screen, as it accompanies and ingratiates each performance and every scenario. It is a master class in how music can support a movie a lesson in how to score a movie and elevate and underline without being over the top and overpowering. Recommended.

CUTTHROAT ISLAND. (de-luxe, expanded edition).


Cast your minds back to 1995, when a movie entitled CUTTHROAT ISLAND was doing the rounds at the cinemas, this for me was the ultimate pirate movie at the time and I still find it more entertaining than the Pirates of the Caribbean series, (sorry and all that, but I do). This not only goes for the movie but also the musical score by John Debney, the music in CUTTHROAT is robust, epic, jaunty and filled with adventure and romance, which is what a good Pirate movie score should be, don’t get me wrong here, I love what Klaus Badelt did on Pirates and then of course that was built on by Hans Zimmer, but CUTTHROAT for me has the edge musically and also cinematically. Debney’ s fast paced soundtrack underlines and punctuates meticulously all the action taking place on screen and the music is also highly listenable away from the images. The films storyline or plot is a simple one and one that we have seen so many times before, but do we tire of it, no we don’t especially when it is presented in such an entertaining way. A female pirate Morgan, played by Geena Davies and her companion Shaw, portrayed by Matthew Modine, race against their rivals led by an unscrupulous and sadistic character, played convincingly by Frank Langella who is excellent in the role of Dawg, to find a concealed island that has a fabulously rich treasure trove.



So, it’s the normal run of the mill Pirate adventure that we have been watching since movies like LONG JOHN SILVER, TREASURE ISLAND and CAPTAIN BLOOD etc, done in the time-honoured Hollywood tradition of swash and buckle with sword play, chases on land and sea and loads of villains and a fair number of romantic interludes. John Debney’s marvellous score lends much to the proceedings and becomes an important part of the overall film making process, it is fair to say that the film would have been poorer with Debney’s powerful and relentless action cues and would have struggled without his richly romantic and lush themes that underlined the scenes with Davies and Modine. The soundtrack was issued on Silva Screen records at the time of the films release as a one-disc set, then came a double CD set and more recently an extended version on a digital site. This is the version I have chosen to review, available on Spotify, it boasts 39 tracks, some of which are alternate takes or synth demo cues. The score is performed by, THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and the choral performances are courtesy of THE LONDON VOICES. The sound achieved by the composer is very Williams-esque as in John Williams, the film in fact was originally assigned to composer David Arnold, but due to scheduling problems, (they always say that don’t they) Debney got the call from Director Renny Harlin. I for one am so glad that Debney worked on the film, it is one of the most effective scores for a Pirate movie that I have heard in years, and as I say I have to be truthful and say I prefer it to any of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie soundtracks.


Arnold did start work on the score and in interview admitted to writing a few bits and pieces for the movie, which he re-used or arranged into his score for INDEPENDANCE DAY and maybe re-used in THE MUSKETEER a few years later., it also noted that the style employed by Debney in CUTTHROAT ISLAND does bare a striking resemblance to Arnold’s INDEPENDENCE DAY, but that is neither here or there, unless you want to analyse the scores and ask the question who influenced whom.
The film however did not do well at the box office, receiving negative reviews, the movie had multiple re-writes and actors such as Michael Douglas who were originally on board for one reason or another decided not to stay with the production, funnily enough at the same time it was being praised for its high quality production values as in locations, rich musical score and cinematography. It was to be the last film from Carolco Pictures before they ceased production in 1996, the company did relaunch in 2015. But like so many box office flops the movie has in recent years attained something of a following. It was to be one of the biggest flops of all time on paper.


The recording commences with MAIN TITLE-MORGAN’S RIDE, this is a perfect opener filled with wonderfully soaring strings and flyaway woods that are enhanced by brass and percussion, in a rousing and full-blooded working of the films central theme. This is however short lived as the composition, slows and moves into a more poignant and melancholy piece, but this too is soon edged to one side as we return to the thundering CUTTHROAT theme, with choir, strings, brass and powerful percussion. The composer adds so many elements to the piece it is almost as if he is throwing everything at the listener, and yes, its good. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed after hearing this commanding and theme laden opening, it will leave you breathless, literally, but wanting more. Debney’s use of choir is nothing short of stunning, and he supports and underlines it with timpani, brass and strings adding depth and a rich musical persona to the proceedings. This can be heard to great effect in track number 2, THE RESCUE, this is also the cue where I think you will be making comparisons with either INDEPENDENCE DAY, STARGATE, or even ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES. CUTTHROAT ISLAND is nothing short of magnificent musically, it is a tour de force of robust, powerful themes and infectious sounding musical motifs that ooze melodic excellence.


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It is a romantically laced work which also contains shades of comedic writing,  a style which we had already witnessed within Debney’s music for the movie HOCUS POCUS two years previous. To analyse each and every track on the recording would I think be wrong, let it be sufficient to say that I recommend this highly, you will not be sorry if you add this to your collection, in fact I guarantee you will be returning to it on a regular basis.



John Debney is a composer who has steadily risen through the ranks and today is considered to be one of the world’s leading composers of music for film. First time I saw his name on the credits for a movie was for HOCUS POCUS where I was immediately struck by his grand sounding score with its impish and cheeky sounding quirks and nuances. His credits since then are varied and numerous, he has worked on many big movies which have had great success at the box office but has also worked on as many intimate films which have not been runaway success. His music for me epitomises the sound of what we know as Hollywood movie music, it is on most occasions fully symphonic, grand and theme laden, romantic, dramatic and haunting. THE YOUNG MESSIAH is one of the composers more recent assignments, I was curious about how the composer would approach this score after his wonderful soundtrack to THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, and yes I know it’s probably wrong to compare the two scores but I suppose we all do this from time to time. I think his work on THE YOUNG MESSIAH is slightly less harsh sounding, by this I mean that THE YOUNG MESSIAH for me personally had to it a softer and more gentile side, I like the way in which the composer utilised the almost ethereal voice of Bethany Woods and embellished and supported it with woodwind and percussive elements to great effect, the composer also made good use of solo string instruments as in cello and violin, at times these giving heart rending performances of themes that are highly passionate and emotive. Of course I am not saying that this is a score that is all soft themes that are filled with a poignant persona. There are also a number of cues that are powerfully dramatic and at times purvey a sound and style that is harrowing and unsettling. The story centres upon a seven-year-old Jesus who with Mary and Joseph goes on a journey from Egypt to Nazareth after the boy is seen to miraculously bring back a person to life. King Herod hears of this and orders that the boy be executed and sends a Roman Centurion to find the family and carry out the killing. Whilst travelling from Egypt to Nazareth both Mary and Joseph become increasingly worried about the safety of Jesus, but as they are travelling through the desert the young Messiah begins to understand more fully about the world around him and the powers that he has been given. Debney’s soundtrack is not only beautiful but is also a compelling listen, and where as THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was epic in it sound and style THE YOUNG MESSIAH is more intimate and gentle, the music that Debney has written is highly spiritual and reflective, take a listen to track number 11 JESUS HEALS CLEOPUS it is stunning, There is not one cue on here that you will want to skip, its more than likely you will go back and listen to them all again and again, highly recommended.



Its been a decade since Mel Gibson’s controversial but highly popular movie THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was released. It caused quite a ripple amongst Church goers and also ruffled a few feathers throughout the world but was also acclaimed by as many people for its qualities and its content. One of the striking elements of the movie was its haunting and at times disturbing musical score. Composer John Debney fashioned a soundtrack that is dramatic, romantic and also celestial. Filled with authentic and ethnic sounds and instrumentation, choral passages, both female and male voices driving percussion and at times grotesque and twisted compositions which although are not melodic still have to them a certain attractive quality. The composer also provided the film with a plethora of melodious compositions many of them being delicate and intricate, others being sweeping and lavish. LA LA LAND RECORDS have released this two disc set of the score to mark the movies tenth anniversary, it is after all an iconic score and also a work that was an important milestone in the careers of both director Gibson and composer Debney. Again I have to stress that this is not really a review as you are all probably aware of just how good this music is, its more of a heads up to collectors making them aware that this 2 disc set is available on the LA LA LAND label. This double compact disc contains numerous tracks that have either never been released before or tracks that were released that contain extra material, plus on disc two there are ten bonus cues which include the trailer music and also alternate versions of cues already included on disc one. There are over two hours of music here in fact 2 hours and 12 mins, a groundbreaking score that now receives a groundbreaking and definitive release. Definitely one to add to your collection..