Remaking classic seventies drive-in shockers has never been more popular, and Michael Wandmacher’s own slate of retro films began in 2009 with My Bloody Valentine, the first of three 3D films he’s scored for blood-hungry audiences.

In our conversation about Piranha 3D, Wandmacher describes working with grim filmmaker Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes), and crafting a score that maintains an edge when so many elements are direct homages and satirical jabs at the conventions unique to killer fish movies.






Mark R. Hasan: I didn’t think that Alexandre Aja had a sense of humour!


Michael Wandmacher: Oh very much! He does have a sense of humour.



MRH: I’ve seen a number of his films, and he has one of the bleakest views towards life among current filmmakers.


WA: He actually had a lot of fun with the jokes. In fact, during the process, anytime there was something funny going on in the film he wanted to make sure it was highlighted.

Jerry O’Connell’s character is kind of a riff or a spoof of the Girls Gone Wild guy, Joe Francis, but he takes that kind of guy and plays it to the hilt… There’s a tongue-in-cheek sense in the whole movie, and when you really think about it, it’s a bunch of kids on spring break being chased by prehistoric fish who are eating them, and when you look at that as a premise, how serious can you be?

There was definitely a sense of humour about all of it, and I know even during the process of making this movie he had talked about more than once in the future of wanting to do a drama-comedy, and he definitely loves the jokes.



MRH: Was it difficult then to pinpoint where the humour and the terrifying moments would be in the score? There was a 9 min. clip shown at ComicCon, and the footage was tremendously gory.


MW: Yes, and that was only a part of it!

For KNB, who did the effects… this was the first time they had to do hardcore gore - ripping body parts kind of gore in broad daylight - and normally they’ll be in the dark or in the shadows, and it’s easy to hide inconsistencies and mistakes, but in this case it was out in the middle of the summer sun, and you could see everything… It was a huge, huge challenge to make it look real, because there was nowhere to hide. For them, what they’ve pulled off in the world of special makeup effects is pretty miraculous.

The music generally highlights all of the gore and action in the film; the jokes are mainly done by the actors, in just the characters they play, or in some cases the caricatures they play, and the types of people you would expect.

They’re kind of played over the top, like Christopher Lloyd’s character [as a marine biologist] and Jerry O’Connell’s character. Kelly Brooke has some pretty choice lines in the movie that are very funny, and the music doesn’t need to highlight that stuff. Alexandre definitely doesn’t want to Mickey Mouse the music in terms of pointing fingers at the jokes.

During all the attack scenes, and when the fish are in the general vicinity, or you know something is going to happen, that’s when the music creeps in. The whole score is really aggressive and really chaotic and really thrashy and abrasive, and that’s definitely what he wanted.


MRH: Was it his choice to go for an orchestral sound?


MW: Yes. He wanted something hybrid, where there were electronics involved and orchestra involved, and I think that had to do with the fact that in terms of scale, this is some of the biggest stuff he’s ever had to do.

The marina attack scene is huge… and he wanted music that had real muscle and would be able to hold its own during that sequence because there are hundreds of kids screaming, there’s explosions, there’s guns, there’s motorboats going and all this thrashing in the water, there’s megaphones, there’s all these types of things going on at once, and it lasts a good 14 minutes, and just doing some kind of electronic atmosphere or beats like that in the background would’ve gotten lost in the mix.

Especially with high strings sounds, he wanted that orchestral chaos that really played into what was going on, and during the quieter moments in the film, we definitely mixed a lot of electronics with the orchestra.

Another big part of it is the fact that the fish are entirely CGI, so to offset that sort of ‘electronic look’ - the fact that the fish aren’t organic in the sense the way they were created - he wanted something to back them up that was organic, and that’s another big reason why the orchestra was used in the score.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

Jerry O'Connell

Oh, dear...

Kelly Brooke (in better shape)

The marina slaughter

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