Heaven of Horror recently spoke with Emoi about his score to Screen Media’s new horror film, The Accursed.
The Accursed synopsis: Elly (Sarah Grey) is asked by a family friend (Mena Suvari) to spend a few days looking after an elderly woman (Meg Foster) living in a remote cabin. She readily agrees thinking a short trip to the woods will be a nice escape. The cabin turns out to be anything but relaxing as Elly begins hallucinating in ways that blur reality with her dreams. As the visions take over, Elly realizes that she was lured there by a demonic presence hiding inside of the woman just waiting to break free.
You can learn more about Emoi at https://www.emoimusic.com/
The opening scene of The Accursed couldn’t be scarier. A stormy night in the middle of nowhere, in a strange house with a creepy old woman. In horror films, the first ten minutes are usually supposed to have some sort of shock value to them, so it sets the tone for the rest of the film. How important is it to start a horror movie with a bang? Did you put more emphasis on this scene, musically, than the rest of the movie?
I love films that have exciting prologues. It is especially important in horror – not just for setting the tone – but also for immediately getting the audience into a cautionary state of mind. A lot of emphasis goes into scoring the beginning, but also the ending of a film, mainly because the beginning is your opportunity to make a good first impression and get the audience hooked. The ending is your opportunity to bring it all home, and leave the audience with a lasting impression they will carry with them long after they have left the theater.
Did you create any specific themes for the main characters? If so, can you talk about those?
I did, but more so, I also gave each of the main characters a certain combination of instruments. For instance, Elly does have her own theme – which is a piano piece that feels very sad and broken, but you’ll also notice piano follows her throughout many of her other scenes even though her theme is not implemented.
Ms. Ambrose is textures, low strings, and unique drones. The demon is sub-frequency bass and ethereal pads. Alma’s presence is also strings, but in the higher register to give a feeling of unpredictability and chaos.
About how much music did you create for The Accursed?
I created exactly 1 hour, 9 minutes, and 19 seconds of music for The Accursed.
The flashback sequences and nightmares Elly has, I would think allowed you to be more experimental with your music because they are unworldly. Did you get to push the envelope a little more with those scenes?
Oh definitely. I used a lot of unconventional instrumentation in those scenes. The goal was to augment her already warped and tortured sense of reality, so I did a lot of layering with unnerving sounds.
Ms. Ambrose’s house pretty much acts like a main character in the film. Did you create a specific theme for the house?
Yes, the main title theme over the opening credits contains all the motifs used for the cabin. There are 5 notes, in particular, I used often that warn the audience of imminent danger and/or the lingering effects of the Ambrose curse.
Your last film, Willy’s Wonderland was pretty wild. Killer animatronics going after Nicolas Cage. What was your favorite part of scoring that film?
I feel like Willy’s really pushed me creatively. There were so many opportunities like the Six Little Chickens scene and the Head Shoulders Knees Toes scene where several approaches were available, yet finding the right one that would tie things together and/or make things funnier, spookier, etc., was always the challenge.
You have scored Benny Loves You, Willy’s Wonderland, and now The Accursed, which all fall into the horror category. Is horror the only genre you like to work in? Would you ever score a romantic comedy?
It’s been brought to my attention recently that Benny Loves You is on my IMDB and I’m not sure why (laughs). I didn’t score it. I’m not sure if they licensed one of my songs or what – but I’m certainly interested in doing more than just horror. I love horror, but I also love fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, action, dark comedy, etc.
I doubt I would be any good at scoring a romantic comedy unless the premise was something like: A zombie falls into a deep depression after his vampire girlfriend dumps him for a werewolf, so, with the help of a witch, he summons a mummy back to life hoping to win her back… Or something ridiculous like that.
This is a more general question, but in your opinion what must a horror film score consist of?
It really depends on the unique needs of each individual film, but generally speaking, horror in particular relies heavily on music because sound has a distinct impact on our psyche. A harrowing sound without any visuals at all can still scare the heck out of someone.
Also, music in horror is used for suspense and anticipation, which is a key component to achieving a good scare. So, to answer your question, a horror score simply must consist of sounds that help sell the horror. The audience needs to believe the scenarios could be real, otherwise, it’s just not scary.