Last week, Anchor Bay announced that a sequel to the rape-and-revenge, exploitation horror shocker “I Spit on Your Grave” is indeed set to film. No, not the 1978 “video nasty” that was banned in several countries, they are referring to the ultra-gruesome 2010 remake. But don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it (the remake), it was basically swept under the rug upon its release…in a similar fashion to the treatment “Piranha 3DD” received this past summer.
So, as a bit of a refresher, we tracked down “I Spit on Your Grave” (2010) soundtrack composer Corey Allen Jackson to discuss the creation of the incredibly grim film.
How did you come to be involved with “I Spit on Your Grave”? Was it a project you sought out, were you friends with someone already on board?
[Laughs] Both – a good friend of mine and one of the first directors I worked for when I came to L.A. – Steven R. Monroe. I think the first project we did together was “It Waits,” six years ago or so. We developed a really good working relationship and became friends on that picture. And since then, I’ve done six or seven films with him. He fought really hard to get me on the project, and it was really appreciated.
Coming into “I Spit On Your Grave,” did you have any initial apprehension because it was a remake of a cult classic, or did you drive in all guns blazing to freshen it up with a 21st century edge?
I had no apprehension whatsoever. If this had been something as iconic as Bernard Herrmann’s “Psycho” or Chris Young’s “Hellraiser” score, I would have been very nervous. But the original didn’t have a score at all. So, I felt really comfortable and worked with Steven and the producers to get the right score for the picture and see their vision through. It was very much a team effort, and it was very hectic because of the time situation, but I’m pretty proud of the end result.
I liked how you used the piano as the primary instrument for the score, because it amplified the creepiness and isolation of the film.
Yeah, I wrote a demo of that just to get my foot in the door, before the thing was even edited. And that was my whole idea – to do this very minimal, repetitive thing, and also to extend upon that using inside-the-piano techniques to help tell the story and keep it uniform. Some of the hits, when Jennifer shows back up, are the slamming of the piano lid and things like that, so the piano is very central to this score. That was the whole idea from the beginning.
Like most horror films that receive remakes, the original is so sacrosanct by genre buffs that the remake really has to be something special for them to even pay attention to it.
Yeah, I noticed a lot of the press had written the film off before we had even finished making it. Some people were very excited about it, and others said it was just going to be “another crap Hollywood remake”. It’s still a very divisive film – you’ll love it or hate it, I don’t think there is an in-between.
When you are creating an atmosphere of fear, how much of your personal self do you put into it, and how much of it is clinical work?
I’d say it’s more meditative than anything. When you’re writing a cue, you’re IN it. But sometimes, you have to step back and think, “is this hit cheesy” or “did I do too much here or not enough?” And once you go through that process, you send it off to directors and producers who are going to do the same thing, and it’s probably going to be completely different from your point of view. So, it’s really: write the cue / send it off / take notes / rewrite.
One of the hallmarks of a great horror film is the lack of music in key scenes. In “I Spit On Your Grave,” how many of those decisions were yours, and how many were the director’s?
It was definitely collaboration. There were several cues that were written later, because we originally started with much less music. Steven was originally championing that, and I agree, because silence used wisely is more powerful than anything you could ever possibly write.
Rape is a horrible thing, I think we can all agree, but the scenes that really put me on edge were those quiet parts at night where the dead bird was being tossed at the door.
Yeah, the whole intimidation thing. I think the reason why this version of the film is so effective is because it, especially the first half, was shot more like a drama…more realistic, than a horror movie. It’s not your traditional horror movie story anyway, and I think that approach is scary as hell…when it becomes real!
I thought it was a much more effective film than the remake of “The Last House on the Left.”
Yeah, I agree. I’m a big fan of the original version of that one. With “I Spit On Your Grave,” from pre-production to post, the idea was to keep that visceral insanity that the first one had and make sure that it stayed within the picture. The original didn’t really look great, and it was very low-budget, but it had that “oh crap” factor that you cannot plan for. I don’t know what you’d call it, but this visceral response is intangible, and they tried really hard to keep that intangible in this film, and I think they succeeded.
In looking at your credits, I saw that you have done a lot of work with composer Christopher Lennertz. Did he give you any tips on avoiding getting pigeonholed in this industry?
No, he didn’t. And I’m sure he’d tell you it’s actually difficult enough to get work out here that if you are lucky enough to get pigeonholed, you’re doing something right! It’s not so much a burden; it’s your job. You go for your jobs; some things resonate more with you than others; but it doesn’t matter what the job is, you just have to try to do the best you can with it.
I have to say that I’ve always been a fan of horror. Back when I was 8-9 years old, I saw “The Prophecy” and it kept me awake for three days. I guess it’s been a blessing and a curse. But there is so much horror out there, you’re really not going to get rich doing it, unless you’ve got a real breakout hit.
Keep up with Corey Allen Jackson on Facebook, Twitter, and at his official website.
“I Spit On Your Grave” is currently available at iTunes, Amazon, and Amazon Digital.