Interview

Interview

Exclusive Interview with 'Silent Night' Composer Kevin Riepl

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Today's the DVD/Blu-ray premiere of Silent Night, director Steven Miller's reinvention of the once-controversial 1984 killer-Santa film Silent Night, Deadly Night. If you've been keeping up with our coverage on FEARnet (as all good boys and girls should), you'll know that the new Silent Night is a radical departure from the original – which was mainly notorious for its ad campaigns running during the holiday season, but otherwise fairly tame as slasher flicks go – and this complete re-imagining extends to Kevin's score, which is not only big, bombastic and scary fun, it also includes memorable themes for the rampaging St. Nick and the film's tough but troubled heroine, weaving orchestral, rock and electronic elements with just the right sprinkle of sinister sleigh bells. I had a chat with Kevin about the creation of the score, as well as his fondness for '80s symphonic horror themes...
 
 
FEARnet: Your score is a major departure from the original film, which I recall went the basic old-school synth route that most lo-fi slashers took back then.
 
KEVIN: Yeah, I wanted to avoid that approach, because Steven took a whole new angle to that basic premise in his film, and I didn't want to marry the music back to the original at all. As the script evolved, I thought it needed something bigger... I wouldn't go so far as to say epic, although it does go that direction toward the end of the film. It wasn't necessarily my intention at the outset, but it just shaped itself that way.
 
Some of those final cues really are massive... but there's still an '80s vibe in there too.
 
Yes, and I thought it needed that element. Not the electronic side of things, but I was thinking more along the lines of the Hellraiser score. Capturing that kind of feel was really my starting point.
 
Hellraiser is also a great example of a low-budget film where the score made the scale of the movie feel much larger.
 
That's why I really love a lot of the orchestral horror scores of the '80s. I saw this as an perfect opportunity to sort of flex that muscle, and it fell right into place with what Steven was doing, so we both really liked how it turned out. I also just like to introduce a slightly more traditional score structure into horror films when the project calls for it, because in a way it might even come as a surprise to audiences who aren't as familiar with some of those great '80s scores.
 
You've also written some solid motifs that are really catchy, like that descending chime-like theme...
 
Yeah, that's basically the main theme for Santa. When I first thought of it, I thought it was too simple... but then again, John Carpenter's music in the '80s was simple. When you hear it for the first time you're immediately on edge, and you know bad things are going to happen, and then it goes completely nuts. Then there’s Jaime King's character, Aubrey, her theme is basically a minor-key variation on “Silent Night,” with the bells and female choir over the top. With that I tried to invoke a sense of innocence and calmness.
 
 
Did you always plan to do these kind of twisted riffs on “Silent Night” and other holiday songs?
 
Not initially... with a holiday horror movie, people are expecting to hear sleigh bells and chimes, and I wanted to steer clear of that and create a kind of alternate-universe holiday. But then I started writing, and I realized I needed to give the audience a false sense of comfort and security, so they'd let their guard down... and what better way to do that than to use holiday-type melodies and the sound of sleigh bells? Also, it ended up creating this weird counterpoint to the “holy shit” horror moments. In addition to a minor version of “Silent Night,” I also wrote a theme for one of the suspects that sounds similar to the song “My Favorite Things,” which suits that character in a creepy kind of way. For the character of Aubrey, there's an emotional innocence that I wanted to bring out through that piano theme and a female choir, and her theme is the most defined. With the Santa theme, I didn't want to just depict him as a psycho, but also put you into the mind of a guy who really believes he's on a mission... in his head, everything he does is justified.
 
What's your take on the whole idea of horror remakes? In this particular case, I'd say you've improved on the original.
 
Well, for one, I'm not a big fan of remaking films that were only made ten years ago, and I'm also not into what's basically a shot-for-shot update of an older film. Like the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street... it's just not good, and I was so disappointed with the way it was handled. I know that Hollywood sees the whole remake thing as a “safe” approach in general, but in my opinion, if they're going to do it anyway, they need to come at the story in a new way. 
 
I agree, and they need to hire a good writer and director who can make it their own vision.
 
Exactly! That's why I like what Steven did with this one, which is to mainly go back to square one with the concept and only loosely reference the original... and I think the finished product works really well because of that.
 
 
Kevin's score for Silent Night was released recently on iTunes and Amazon mp3, and the film itself is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Check out out review of the film here, and be sure to stay tuned for more news on Kevin's upcoming genre projects in 2013!
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