Heaven of Horror recently spoke to composer Panu Aaltio about his score to Shudder’s recently released film, The Twin.
The Twin Synopsis: Following the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, Rachel and Anthony relocate to the other side of the world with their surviving son. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces that are trying to take hold of him.
The Twin was written by Taneli Mustonen and Aleksi Hyvarinen and was produced by Don Films’ Aleksi Hvvarinen. Hyvarian also worked on 2016’s Finnish slasher Lake Bodom and the 2017 Russian drama Arrhythmia.
How did you get connected with The Twin?
I worked with director Taneli Mustonen and producer Aleksi Hyvärinen before on Lake Bodom. And in fact, Aleksi was the producer on the first ever short film I scored in 2004, so we go way back!
What initially attracted you to the script?
The way it builds up to the conclusion through many small details was amazingly well done. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put the script down. Also, the mother’s pain was really touching, which Teresa Palmer so incredibly brought to life.
Can you talk about what you did to prepare for The Twin? How did you build your sound palate?
In horror scoring, I often like to use something from the characters or the environment. Elliot finds a marble maze that belonged to his dead brother, so I brought that in as a percussive element. I also recorded a lot of strange sounds with my cello that I processed into some eerie soundscapes.
Did the director, Taneli Mustonen, have a pretty specific idea of what he wanted the score to sound like? Or were you given more freedom to experiment?
Experimentation was the key here as Taneli loves to hear something fresh. One experiment that he was particularly happy with was the pagan ritual music where I read the death poem of Kullervo from the Finnish national epic Kalevala into a microphone, chopped it up, and made it into this spooky rhythmic chant. It felt too crazy to work at first, but I think it became our favorite track in the score!
Did you watch any horror movies before beginning work on The Twin to get inspiration? If so, which ones?
I think Hereditary and Sicario 2 were some references Taneli mentioned in our initial discussions way back before they had shot the film. I always go back and reacquaint myself with whatever gets brought up, but it’s also important to tune all that out when it’s time for me to create something new. I feel the score needs to start with a blank slate and just let the film speak.
Was there a scene in The Twin that was particularly hard to score? If so, why?
The flashback sequence took a lot of tries. It’s just inherently a complicated scene because you’re going through so many dramatic moments and emotions in a short time span. And once you’ve worked on a scene long enough, you get numb to what the scene feels like! So then it’s even harder to keep your head straight. I think we got it at the end though.
The Twin isn’t your first horror film. What is the difference for you in scoring a horror project, then a non-horror project?
Non-horror projects often gravitate towards a particular musical style. With horror, you never really know what you’re going to end up doing. A big part of being scary is surprising the audience in some way, and that means surprising yourself too.
What instrument have you found makes the scariest sounds? Did you use it in The Twin?
I think the human voice used in unnatural ways tends to be the creepiest sound I can think of, and that’s a big part of the score.
What has been your favorite horror film in the last year?
I must admit I haven’t had much time to watch films in the past year, as most of my waking hours have been spent working! And with my 6-year-old daughter around, I have to be mindful of what I watch most of the time. Speaking of something at least horror adjacent, I did get to check out Squid Game. I loved the vocal work in that score, which was wonderfully creepy.
What are you working on next?
Just a couple of days ago I finished scoring an American drama film called 5000 Blankets, which is based on a true story about a woman whose husband goes missing. She seeks to find him together with their son and ends up sparking a large movement to help homeless people. The movie is coming out later this year.
You can learn more about Panu Aaltio at https://www.panuaaltio.com.