Interview: Composer Joseph Bishara on Scoring the Insidious Franchise, Working With John Carpenter, and His Favorite Horror Films of 2017 - Dread Central
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Interview: Composer Joseph Bishara on Scoring the Insidious Franchise, Working With John Carpenter, and His Favorite Horror Films of 2017

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This past weekend saw the release of Adam Robitel’s Insidious: The Last Key (review), the fourth film in the Blumhouse franchise started by James Wan and Leigh Whannell in 2010. Grossing nearly $30 million domestically in its opening weekend (three times its production budget), the film has generated rather favorable reviews from theatergoers and horror critics alike, many of whom are thrilled to see Lin Shaye’s “Elise Rainier” lead yet another film, opening up her storyline in new ways.

The film not only saw the return of writer/star Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Shaye, it also brought about the return of composer Joseph Bishara, who also plays the franchise’s “Lipstick-Face Demon”. One of horror’s most prolific and haunting composers of the past few years, Bishara’s return is a welcome treat for those who adore the terrifying score that shrieks and scratches its way across their spines.

I got the chance to catch up with Bishara to ask him not only about Insidious: The Last Key but also about a few other things that I was curious about, such as his role on John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars, his favorite horror movies of 2017, and more! You can read it all for yourself below.

You can follow Joseph on his official webpage or keep up with his label, Void Recordings.

Dread Central: You’ve been a part of the Insidious franchise since the beginning. What’s it like watching some of these characters grow throughout these stories?
Joseph Bishara: It’s been a great perspective, certainly not knowing from the start where things would be headed. It’s always surprising to me when I hear the new stories around the characters, never knowing which direction they will go.

DC: On top of composing this franchise, you’re also the Lipstick-Face Demon. What’s it like becoming a bit of a horror icon yourself?
JB: I’ve always been interested in horror and those that create it in the various mediums, so to get to contribute to that in any way is really an honor. I’m very grateful for the opportunity, to get to explore inside the world of the film in that way, with such a deep level of immersion and having all of the on-set experience and body consciousness to draw on while scoring.

DC: Alright, let’s talk about the music of Insidious: The Last Key! This is the fourth film in the series but the second film when looked at chronologically. I know that some composers will “evolve” their themes as time passes in a series, such as Harry Potter. Did the timeline placement of this film affect the “evolution” of your music?
JB: The story itself contributed more than the timeline, it was mostly about looking into the characters and themes. Wounded past, personal demons and real life trauma, and the layers that create, sustain and perpetuate these patterns. Also an early inspiration came from the rural setting, very different than the cities the other films take place in. Leigh told me the story pretty early in the process and the setting immediately stood out as something that would help define the world of this film.

DC: The trailers, and obviously the title, place a high importance on keys. Were keys utilized in your music at all?
JB: Among other things, there was a mortise lock mechanism that was used a trigger on a prepared piano.

DC: You’ve composed music for a wide range of horror subgenres. What does the supernatural subgenre allow in terms of opportunities that you think a slasher may not offer?
JB: There really are infinite gradations to the colors available within any genre or subgenere. The realm of the supernatural has a particular flavor that speaks of the unknown, of entities and energies from places apart from or perhaps parallel to what we consider to be waking consciousness. Musically that can be filtered any number of ways, and as always comes down to looking into the particular world being opened up.

DC: What’s one of the most important lessons you feel you’ve learned when it comes to composing?
JB: One thing would be that when writing, to just keep at it and be assured that sometimes writing the pieces that drop off along the way are part of the path to the pieces that develop fully.

And not to underestimate the time spent away from the studio, it’s important sometimes to allow a vision to bloom on its own. There is so much to do on a score that if something isn’t totally clear just move onto another area. Breakthroughs can happen at unexpected times.

DC: Right now there’s nothing upcoming listed on your IMDb page. That can’t be true, can it? Please tell me you’ve got something interesting in the works!
JB: Next up will be a New Line film called The Children, produced by James Wan’s company Atomic Monster. A collaboration track I did with the artist Tech N9ne called “Brightfall” will be out in March. Also a few other projects and soundtrack releases at various stages, looking to be a busy year so far.

DC: I want to go back in time because I saw an interesting credit on your IMDb page where you were a sound designer on Ghosts of Mars? Can you tell me a little bit about that experience?
JB: What a cool experience, to hole up in an old Hollywood recording studio and work with John Carpenter for a couple of months on the score, taking his tracks and almost remixing them in a way, manipulating and adding programming. I was excited to get the call, came in and met John and the team and pretty much started right away.

DC: I have to know, what were some of your favorite horror movies of 2017?
JB: mother! was one of my favorites of the year, also A Dark Song, and The Devil’s Candy.

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Must-See: Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees Fan Short Film

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The short film titled Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees made its much-anticipated debut on YouTube channel CallMeJeff86 on January 15th, 2018.

The film is a passion project that pits two horror movie icons against each other; it’s Michael Myers from Halloween against Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th in a bloody fight to the finish.

What are you waiting for? Give the 3-part short a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees is written and directed by Mason C. McDonald and stars Jeff Payne as Michael Myers, Dustin Miller as Jason Voorhees, and John Alton as the Vengeful Father.

Don’t forget to follow the film on Instagram and Twitter!

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