Vertical Entertainment releases films in every genre, but they have become known for some of their great horror films, such as Polaroid, No Escape, Look Away, He’s Out There and What Lies Below. Their most recent title is the sci-fi/horror/thriller, Parallel, directed by Isaac Ezbanand stars Martin Wallström (Mr. Robot), Aml Ameen (I May Destroy You), Georgia King (Devs) and Mark O’Brien (Ready or Not). In the film, “A group of friends stumble upon a mirror that serves as a portal to a “multiverse”, but soon discover that importing knowledge from the other side in order to better their lives brings increasingly dangerous consequences.” When it came time to decide the musical landscape for the film, Ezban called upon longtime collaborator Edy Lan. With Bernard Herrmann and The Twilight Zone being inspirations for them both, Lan crafted a very bold and effective score, for which he describes as having a “Hitchcockian vibe”. To learn more about the film’s original score, we spoke exclusively to composer Edy Lan below.
-Upon reading the Parallel script and acclimating with the picture, what were the elements you latched onto from the outset?
Firstly, the dramatic elements of the character arcs, secondly the mythology of the mirror itself. There’s the Mirror’s theme or motif, which is one of the first things I wrote. The third thing was the tech element in the movie, not the sci fi tec but rather their involvement in app development.
-Was there one specific note that Isaac Ezban, the director, gave you about the score that stuck with you through production?
Just that mantra “the classic meets the modern”. That was a very instrumental aspect of it all.
-Did you give any characters their own themes? If so, can you talk about them?
Characters don’t have motifs per se, but the mirror has one and the alternate world and “alts” do. This is more of situations and things having themes and motifs as opposed to leitmotifs for characters. This is an approach I really like which Herrmann also used.
–Parallel is a classified as a horror, sci-fi, thriller. Because it fits into so many different genres, was it hard to lock down a signature sound? It was hard to even out the tone because of the aforementioned, that was the real challenge so it had to have elements of drama in the sci fi and so forth. And it could never really go into horror per se or any other overt genre because then you felt a tomato shift and it didn’t work.
-In your opinion, what about you as an artist has positioned you to thrive across genres with an emphasis on horror and sci-fi? A kind question indeed. I really think I understand the genre as an avid viewer and my emphasis is always in storytelling. Sometimes one can lose sight of that because of the flashy elements of genre films, but doing so would be a disservice to the movies I work on. Ultimately both sci fi and horror have pathos in them and I think that’s the key. All good horror scores for example have what I like to refer to as “aftermath music”, which is what gives meaning and consequence to the tragedy of those films. If there’s a bad guy who kills the children of the town, that tragic aspect is the most compelling and interesting at some point in the story and there’s a type of horror/drama music that is present in all great scores of the genre. The unsuccessful ones only concentrate on the pure horror aspect of it.
-How do you know when your score has been effective and done its job?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Definitely when the audience reacts to it and has enhanced the viewing experience, which is a difficult and subjective thing. Personally, if the movie is emotionally felt more after my score, if it becomes more engaging, I feel I’ve done my job. Sometimes it’s also hiding imperfections in other departments, sometimes it’s getting out of the way. Ultimately, it’s a challenge because it’s not just your call. Sometimes you think a scene should be left with no music, but you’re asked to write some. Sometimes you think the tone should be different or something, but that’s also part of the game, negotiating these things and knowing that ultimately you’re contributing to someone else’s vision.
-Were any parts of your score more “horror sounding” than others? If so, what scene(s) were those? I think Parallel never crosses that threshold fully, so it’s more of a thrillery vibe than horror and that’s more towards the end, when Leena is trying to escape from Noel. However, if you want to hear more of a horror sounding score, my score for Isaac’s The Similars has tons of it. It’s also more of a Twilight Zone vibe, but it touches more on the horror side of it at times.
-Now that you have scoring a sci-fi horror film, is there another horror subgenre you would like to work on? Slasher, supernatural, ect? I just finished scoring a supernatural horror movie called The Containment and that is definitely a horror score. That was a genre that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s also predominantly a vocal score which I’ve always wanted to do since I’m a singer and I had the privilege of having the amazing French a capella trio LES ITINÉRANTES sing in it.
Slashers are not my thing so much, as I prefer the darker more story driven films. I love films that blur genres like Mother, which at the end is almost a horror film for a few minutes, same as Black Swan. I mean clearly, they’re not literally, but there are elements to them that are and that makes them super compelling to me.
-What horror films have you seen lately that you would recommend to audiences?
In all honesty, the last one that really really surprised me because of its craftsmanship was The Witch, which clearly everybody knows. But I go back to the pathos of it. But then recently I watch Freaky, which is not really a horror film, but a spoof of the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed it thoug, it’s just a really fun concept and Vince Vaughn is hilarious. In any case I thought it was an original take adjacent to the genre.