Interview: Composer Tim Williams Conducts Superhero Horror in BRIGHTBURN

Two weeks from today sees the release of Brightburn, a horror/superhero hybrid that essentially asks, “What if Superman were evil?” The thought of an all-powerful being intent on causing pain, mayhem, and destruction is nothing short of haunting. Leave it to the Gunn family to bring such a concept to the big screen!

While we have an interview with director David Yarovesky on the way, today we want to highlight composer Tim Williams, whose work has previously been heard on such films as Aberration, Diablo, and more. You can read our interview with Williams below.

Dread Central: For over a decade now, superhero films have been a part of Hollywood in ways never before seen. We’ve heard some of the most triumphant themes connected to some of the most inspiring heroes. But Brightburn brings a different kind of “hero” to the screen. What does the story of this film offer you, as a composer, in terms of being able to bring something different to a superhero score?

Tim Williams: I began with a simple three note theme that shows the hope and potential of what this superhero boy can become and as his powers grow, the music expands in presence as well. Most superhero scores include that sense of hope and super power, but this score moves into new territories not inhabited by a traditional superhero score. There are some heavy emotional journeys for the characters and the music has to reflect their concern, questioning of motives, heartache and pain and ultimately terror. These darker emotions are not typically dealt with in regular superhero films. The journey is also different. As the hero descends into evil, the music must also reflect that distortion.

DC: Brightburn marries the current superhero explosion with horror. What does that blend do for your musical palette?

TW: I began with piano and fiddle for the main theme to evoke the rural farm and simple family life we first witness. You hear a three note piano theme that is simple, innocent and pure. The palette shifts when Brandon begins to gain more power and I shift into the power felt with a large orchestra. As Brandon darkens, I darken the theme, moving it to low brass which bends and pitches, with heavy processed percussion and large strings adding to the growing power and evil.

DC: Since the “hero” of Brightburn comes from outer space, do you find yourself using tones and instruments that have an “otherworldly” quality about them?

TW: Yes! The score features a bespoke library custom built for the ROLI. This allowed for amazing sounds that mutate, speed up, slow down, pitch and bend. I also used traditional instruments in non-traditional ways to bring us to that place of hearing things we are not used to hearing.

DC: How can music, in your opinion, reflect the descent of someone who we hope will be good and kind but instead descend into anger and destruction?

TW: The solo piano, as a simple theme in the beginning is exactly that voice of hope we get to share with the parents, especially his mother, and also the hope Brandon has in himself. Then I started experimenting with mutating the orchestra and the piano. The pianist was physically climbing into the piano, putting his fingers on the strings to pluck and hammer them himself. This simple piano theme is ultimately heard with high bending low trombones and massive bending strings as Brandon comes to terms with his dark destiny.

DC: I feel that music in horror films is often an additional character, one that manipulates and directs the emotions of the audience, often without their realizing it. If you had to describe your music as a physical character that lived within the world of Brightburn, what would that character be like?

TW: The music would have a split personality – the heart of a mother and a predatorial alien.

Written by Mark and Brian Gunn and produced by James Gunn with David Yarovesky directing, Brightburn stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, and Matt Jones.

It comes to theaters on May 24.



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