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JEFF GRACE (2009) - Page 1

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J E F F _G R A C E


In this previously unpublished interview with Jeff Grace, the composer discusses his dark, witty score for Glenn McQuaid's mordant I Sell the Dead, and Ti West's House of the Devil.



Mark R. Hasan: I Sell The Dead began as a short film, right?


Jeff Grace: Yeah, it started as a short (The Resurrection Apprentice), and if you take that just by itself, the tone is quite different; it’s just straight-up, and there’s nothing humorous about it. Then Glenn McQuaid expanded it and turned it into a feature, and it became sort of episodic, so the development of the characters isn’t your usual thing.

The comedic element was definitely part of a delicate balance that Glenn wanted to play between making it funny, but keeping the vibe of this dark world that they’re in. The way Larry Fessenden plays Willy the grave robber is really over the top, so Dominic Monaghan was a bit more reserved in playing Arthur. If the two of them had really gone at it the same amount, I don’t think it would have worked as well.

With all those different things, that film to me is quite different than a lot of the other stuff I’ve done. I Sell the Dead is a comedy; it’s set in a horrific world, but it’s a comedy.

What’s funny about this film is they would shoot for a while, and they’d close down production while they waited for cash to be available or whatever, and that presented an opportunity to start cutting stuff together.

Another thing that assisted them in balancing the film’s tonal design was an actual comic book done by storyboard artist Brahm Revel that was based on the script. Brahm worked very closely with Glenn on it, and they had this great, really elaborate storyboard thing that they could and did refer to, and they actually sent the comic book to the actors.



MRH: One aspect of McQuaid’s direction I liked is his reliance on the actors. There are a number of sequences  - like the prison scenes or the boat ride to the island - where the takes are sometimes unusually long, and he relies on the actors, the dialogue, and I wonder if that was something you embraced because normally in a horror film, even in a black comedy, there’s usually a brisk pace, and I think your music supported the director’s nuanced pacing.


JG: I think the prison scenes with Ron Perlman (who plays a shady monk) and Dominic were filmed after they had done a chunk of stuff in the summer with Dom and Larry, and then they picked up a couple of things a bit after that, so we ended up revisiting some things.

I had started to work on the film in that time-frame, and after I scored some of the scenes with Ron and Dom, Graham actually asked for more music in there, which gave us an opportunity to try some stuff or to re-address some things that weren’t working for Glenn.

When you have a situation where it’s episodic and everything is kind of a new situation, it’s often harder to go back and revisit and develop thematic material, so asking for more music was certainly fun, but it gives you an opportunity to develop some of the themes.

Ron’s character is quirky. He had these ticks and these outbursts of physical activity. We were trying to just figure out how to best play that, and I think at some point Glenn just said, ‘Just definitely play it up and have fun with it. It is a comedy, so go that route.’


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