Does anything good happen in an escape room? In the horror world the answer is a hard no. What starts out as harmless fun, quickly takes a turn in Vertical Entertainment’s new horror film No Escape. No Escape stars Keegan Allen, Holland Roden, Denzel Whitaker, Ronen Rubinstein, Pasha Lynchnikoff, George Janko, and Siya. The flick was written and directed by Will Wernick.
A good horror film needs an original score that informs the audience when something bad is about to happen or brings the tension level higher. Crystal Grooms Magano does just that. Not only did she use instruments for the score, the composer found new and creative ways to get the audio she needed. Including recording a huge metal gate opening and closing, scraping and pounding. She goes more in depth about this below. No Escape hits video-on-demand and Digital on September 18, 2020. Crystal’s original score will be released the same day by Groomsy Music.
WICKED HORROR: In a few words how would you describe your score for No Escape?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: The score for No Escape is orchestral featuring dark, creepy cello and tense, manipulated percussion.
WICKED HORROR: We have heard of composers using non-instrumental, found objects, in scores. Especially in the horror genre. Did you do anything like this with No Escape?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: I did! This is one of my favorite techniques to incorporate as it adds a unique layer that is specific to the film and sounds different than any other score. For this film, I wanted to try some new ideas for the percussive elements of the score. A significant amount of the film takes place in a large, warehouse-type space so I wanted to include metal in the soundscape. Behind my apartment is a huge metal and iron gate that opens into the alley. I recorded as many different sounds as I could with the gate – scraping, opening, closing, banging, creaking – and then treated the audio like samples to manipulate into either percussive rhythmic elements or strange ambience.
WICKED HORROR: Horror film scores tend to almost act like another main character because they are so present. Did you feel any extra pressure with your score because of this?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: The large presence of the music in horror films is one of the exciting aspects of creating a score like this. You get to be big and bold with the music. I think pressure in this genre comes from maintaining and building the energy. As the stakes increase, the music needs to dial up as well. You finish one scene where you’ve given the score everything you’ve got, then you turn around and do it again.
WICKED HORROR: The film is happy go lucky and then takes a quick turn. Did it feel like you were scoring two films because of this?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: The journey we take from the light-hearted beginning of the film to the end is pretty intense. The main character is a vlogger. The type of content he creates has very specific energy and vibe. To stay true to the medium, the writer/director, Will Wernick, placed existing music at the very beginning of the film that captured the style perfectly. Not long after that, the characters are in an exclusive night club. In this scene you’ll hear house music by artist Rough Night that plays to the lifestyle and world of the characters. Having these two different musical styles at the beginning helps facilitate that quick turn as the story develops and the score takes over.
WICKED HORROR: Based on the trailer there seems to be a lot of mechanics involved with the film, with all the torture devices. Did this aspect have an impact on the score?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: I visited set when they were filming some of these scenes. It was impressive to see what they had done with the production design. It gave me a good sense of the environment the characters would be in for a significant part of the film. This inspired the recordings I mentioned previously with the gate, incorporating heavy, grinding, twisting metallic sounds into the score.
WICKED HORROR: Was there anything about scoring a horror film that surprised you?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: I was a little surprised at how quickly I became desensitized to the images. There are some gory scenes in the film that are pretty intense on their own, before even adding sound design or music. Once I got into a scene, really working with the score, I would be so focused on the music that I would almost forget how gruesome it was visually.
WICKED HORROR: Did you create specific character themes? If so, did you have a favorite character to score for?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: Cole, the main character of the film, has a theme that is used throughout the movie. The theme is introduced with Cole and Erin, the character’s girlfriend. As the story continues, the theme comes back during times where reality is questioned, in moments of despair, and then finally at the end with the horrific reveal of “reality”.
WICKED HORROR: How closely did you work with the film’s sound designer?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: D.J. Lynch and Rob McIntyre, along with their Sound Rebels team, were working on the sound design at the same time I was working on the music. We communicated early in post-production about the style of the score so they would know what to expect from me. Will kept me updated on what the sound team was doing so that we didn’t overlap too much. I relied on his updates to make sure all grounds were covered and also to know when to stay out of the way.
WICKED HORROR: We saw that Groomsy Music is releasing the film’s score. Do you have a favorite track on the album?
CRYSTAL GROOMS MANGANO: Each time I listen to the music I seem to have a new favorite. I’m really happy with “Escape”. The music in that cue is very lush and dramatic. I also like “Gears in Motion” where you can hear the results of those manipulated, recorded sounds.