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Horror Composers Discuss Their Craft at Comic-Con

Horror Composers Discuss Their Craft at Comic-Con

“I have had the opportunity to to see some of my performances before the score was laid,” said actor Douglas Tait, speaking to his experience playing the unstoppable Friday the 13th killer, Jason Vorhees, “and I was terribly disappointed in myself.”  The score of a horror film, he went on to explain, “makes all the difference in the world.”

Tait was introducing the Saturday evening Comic-Con panel, “The Character of Music: Classic Horror Special Edition,” making its fifth appearancw at the annual event. Panelists included composers Tyler Bates (2004’s Dawn of the Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy), Maruizio Guarini of the progressive rock group Goblin (Suspiria), Laura Karpman (2002’s Carrie), Richard Band (Re-Animator), Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th), and Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

Unsurprisingly, the composers firmly and unanimously took the uncontroversial position that music plays a primary role in horror films. To that affect, Bernstein argued, “If you take the score out of the film, it would be like taking Freddy Krueger out of the film.” Band elaborated, “Music is the third dimension of a two dimensional medium… We do tend to lead you on in certain directions with music; that’s our job.”

More interesting than any of the iconic composers’ general thoughts on scoring were their “I can’t believe we got away with it!” anecdote swapping. When asked which sounds gave him the creeps, Band shared the story of spending $1,000 to outfit his entire string section of Mutant with thimbles (he’s still sore about never getting back his thimbles). Egged on by Manfredini, Band launched into an impersonation of Edith Barker singing the original Star Trek theme. In explaining the significance of programming skills when creating a mockup, Tyler admitted, “On 300, I didn’t know how to demo the choir, so I did all the male and female parts you hear.” When asked about the unsettling “ki-ki-ki ma-ma-ma” queue of the Friday the 13th score, Manfredini explained he created the effect by whispering like a child, “kill her, mommy,” into an echoplex.

The conversation, concluding at 9:30pm, was a lively and playful one, and we hope to see it return for a sixth installment next year.

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