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Composer Benjamin Wallfisch on the creative process behind ‘Lights Out’

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Supernatural horror film Lights Out, the directorial debut of David F. Sandberg, is hitting cinemas worldwide these days telling the story of Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) and her brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman) who try to find out the frightening truth connected to their mother about what happens once lights go out. Above you can find the second trailer to Lights Out giving you an impression of the film (I really dig that cover usage of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Stop Children What’s That Sound’ in it).

The score itself lulls you in beautifully with its first tracks and then kicks you out of your chair when the first loud hit kicks in. No wonder that track carries the name of the monster, Diana. From there on the score gets much darker with more jump scares included. But overall it becomes obvious that “even though it’s a horror film, it is also a strong family drama in which you really care about the characters,” as composer Benjamin Wallfisch stresses. “Sandberg was keen I write a score with very strong themes and emotion at its core, which is pretty unusual for horror films.”

Benjamin told us a bit more about the whole process behind the score for Lights Out:

Early on, David and I discussed how we wanted to go about bringing the subtext of an emotional family drama to the fore of the score, in the context of a high adrenaline horror movie. There is a strong “mother/daughter” theme where I went about capturing the complex dynamic between them with a melody that can never quite find its home. Also the monster, Diana, has a motif – one that is the stuff of nightmares: It’s kind of like a demented lullaby, an obsessive tune that almost closes in on itself.

The biggest challenge for sure was finding a sound for Diana, making her feel like the fabric of the movie, whilst at the same time being led by the story and delivering the human truth of what these people are experiencing and why. The movie delivers both raw scares and a powerful story with an unwavering sense of integrity to the characters. The scares are always earned and there’s often a playful glint in the filmmakers’ eye. The music had to help guide the audience through the subtext of the story, at times very subtle, at other times outrageously visceral. My task was to figure out how to do that in a way that felt completely of the DNA of the movie; the look, the pace of the cut, the performances, and find themes which told the story of these characters with a sense of truth and simplicity.

Composer Benjamin Wallfisch hails from a distinguished musical family and at 22 was appointed Associate Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra and later Assistant Conductor of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. At the same time, he studied under Academy Award winning composer Dario Marianelli where he orchestrated and conducted Marianelli’s Oscar-winning score for Atonement. Wallfisch then worked as sole orchestrator on numerous other movies such as Pride and Prejudice, V for Vendetta, The Soloist, Eat Pray Love, Jane Eyre and Robin Hood until his scoring debut for Lars von Trier’s Dear Wendy. This earned Wallfisch his first out of four later nominations (Summer in February, Hammer of the Gods, The Escapist) as ‘Discovery of the Year’ at the World Soundtrack Awards. In 2009, Wallfisch would add an Emmy nomination to his list of accolades for the music to When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions. In 2013, he would get his first IFMCA nomination and HMMA win for Summer in February. Last year, Wallfisch garnered his second IFMCA Nomination for the animated feature, Gamba: Ganba to nakamatachi.

The Soundtrack for Lights Out is available from WaterTower Music. You can find more info about Benjamin Wallfisch on his website.

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Based in Berlin, Germany. Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief. Music Producer at Eon Sounds Productions. Founder of Composers for Relief. Keeps Moving.

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