By JORDAN VON NETZER
When it comes to supernatural horror films, disturbing a spirit is usually one thing you always want to avoid. This is definitely the case in Vertical Entertainment’s THE NAMELESS DAYS, written and directed by Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon. The film follows Mexican immigrants Rahui (Alejandro Akara) and his pregnant sister Gabriela (Ashley Marian Ramos) as they attempt to cross the U.S. border. On their way, they stumble onto the hunting grounds of a vengeful Aztec spirit. Wounded and separated from his sister after the spirit attacks, Rahui happens upon an American ally, Nicole (Ally Ioannides), who offers him shelter and fills him in on the origin story of the demonic spirit. In life, the spirit was a pregnant woman who was sacrificed. She now returns during the five Nameless Days of the Aztec calendar to hunt for the one thing she was denied in life – a baby. When Nicole and Rahui venture back across the border to rescue Gabriela, they are relentlessly pursued by the demon, who will stop at nothing to take Gabriela’s baby. The music in horror films always plays an integral part in the storytelling process, so Rue Morgue sat down with composer Christian Davis to discuss scoring this vengeful tale.
At what point were you brought on to THE NAMELESS DAYS?
I was brought in during post-production when they had a locked cut.
What were some of the keywords the directors used to describe how they wanted the score to sound?
Andrew and Matt kept saying they wanted the score to feel sparse and unconventional. The landscape of the movie is really sparse and they wanted the music to match that. They also told me that whenever we see the Aztec creature, it should feel like a slow serpent chasing a mouse – slow, inevitable. You know the serpent is going to get the mouse eventually, and it’s hard to look away.
What did your compositional process look like for The Nameless Days?
I always start with the most important, pivotal scenes first. I spent a lot of time finding and building experimental soundscapes, things that didn’t sound like anything organic or recognizable. There are some strings and brass in the serpent theme, but I tried to distort and mangle those, so it was more unique.
You have scored a few horror projects, including Behind You in 2020. Why do you think your music resonates so well with fans of this genre?
Great question. I guess it’s my ability to match the film. I’ve scored a half dozen horror films and every score has been different. As a film composer, you’ve got to be a filmmaker-storyteller first and composer second.
Track No. 4 on the album is titled “The Nameless Days.“ Is this the film’s main theme? Did you create this piece of music first and then base the rest of the tone around it?
Yes, this track plays during the climax of the film, it is the “Serpent” theme. This was the first scene I tackled and then used it in variations throughout the rest of the film. The “Serpent” theme really starts a the 1:39 mark in track four, “Nameless Days.” It’s those bending chords.
There are two other themes in the movie, the “Optimism” theme and the “Sadness” theme. You’ll hear the “Optimism” theme pretty clearly in track one, “Sunrise.” You’ll hear the “Sadness” theme in track three, “Drunk & Sober.”
What do you think about musical jump scares in horror films? Did you have any in THE NAMELESS DAYS?
I think they’re great, but for the best effect, they should be used sparingly. Overuse will dilute their effectiveness or turn it into a horror comedy. Yes, there are a couple in THE NAMELESS DAYS, but I won’t tell you where!
The film’s settings are pretty desolate. Did that influence your score at all?
Absolutely. As I mentioned previously, Andrew and Matt really wanted the score to match the landscape – sparse, desolate, lonely. I had to write music that would sync up with what they shot.
Can you talk about the end credits for the film? What sort of vibe did you want to leave the audience with?
I always want to send the audience off with some energy so they subconsciously will have good vibes about the movie. In this situation, it’s still a very frightening, gnarly piece of music that I use, but it’s definitely got lots of energy!!
What makes a horror film score scary?
Effective use of silence. The scariest parts of horror movies is usually when it’s silent. If you overscore the movie, the music won’t have any effect. So let the music go away. Let our characters sit in silence as long as you can, and then the music will do its job more effectively.
THE NAMELESS DAYS soundtrack album by Christain Davis is available now!
“I always want to send the audience off with some energy so they subconsciously will have good vibes about the movie.”