The horrors of sleep paralysis are amplified by composer Marc Vanocur's score in the upcoming horror film Dead Awake. Ahead of the film's May 12th release, we caught up with Vanocur for our latest Q&A feature to discuss making the music for Dead Awake and to reflect on his time working as a sound editor on the Tales from the Crypt TV series.

You just finished Dead Awake and are already working on Phillip Guzman's second film, 200 Hours. Had you collaborated with him in the past? Did the film forge the creative partnership?

Marc Vanocur: I hadn't worked with Phil before Dead Awake. We met while working on the movie, got along well, and things just naturally progressed. I think it has to do with the communication than anything else. When you collaborate through a hurdle in a way that is constructive and not offensive, it makes the process so much easier. You then feel free to experiment and write outside of your boundaries because you’re not afraid of delivering something that’s going to get laughed at or upset the director.

Sometimes a friendship develops with filmmakers because of your creative and working complement each other. If there's a good flow while working on the first film, you typically wouldn't want to break that up. After so many years working in the business, I’ve figured out that’s where loyalty develops. He’s (Guzman) is so flexible and great at detailing notes; he knows exactly what he wants and can communicate that effectively and efficiently.

How did you get involved with Dead Awake?

Marc Vanocur: One of the producers of Dead Awake, whom I’ve known for a long time, asked if I’d be interested in doing the post work on the color. Color correction is part of my background as well as post-production supervision, and I agreed. Since I'm also a musician, they asked me if I’d be interested in taking a stab at their score. I chatted with the director, who I didn’t know at the time, to find out what he wanted for the score. Within five minutes of talking with him, I knew I wanted to do the score and had a clear perspective of what he wanted.

From a musical standpoint, what were you looking to achieve in Dead Awake?

Marc Vanocur: I believe he wanted to highlight those points that didn't visually horrify, which I assume applies to all horror films. He was looking for big sounds, heavy low-end brass, and strings to create tension. Those are many of the things people employ to get horror movies to sound like "horror."

We did that in the night scenes when the characters are sleeping, but during the day when they’re investigating, we approached it in a very different way. We created an electronic percussion theme to keep time moving forward so you felt like you were not stagnant or stuck in one place and things weren’t developing. It was fun, since it was like writing music for two different films at once.

Are there any musical influences that helped you while making your scores?

Marc Vanocur: Oh yeah! I’ve been a film junkie since I was a kid and have been influenced by many. I enjoy anything by Bernard Herman and as far as drama goes, Thomas Newman of course. I get very connected to almost everything he writes! I’m also a huge fan of Gustavo Santaolalla and have a distinct love for his music. There are too many amazing contemporary composers; it’s hard to pick.

You also worked as a sound editor on the Tales From The Crypt series. What was that like and what did you take away from that experience?

Marc Vanocur: In the early ’90s I was just getting into the business. When I got out of college, I became very attracted to mixing and sound editing and went into audio post-production. We were just switching over to digital in those days, and that was an exciting transition for me. I started working at a place called Digital Sound and Picture and Tales From the Crypt was one of their series. I was added on as an editor, but eventually signed on as an editing/sound supervisor, and that was a lot of fun! They had a different director take on each episode. The stories at the time were about 23 minutes long, and they could tell so much in that amount of time. Building a soundtrack for that was really my introduction to sound and editorial, and it was an excellent way to get started. It gave me the bug for "horror," which I never saw myself doing.

What did you see yourself doing if not horror?

Marc Vanocur: I always had seen myself as a drama composer, but there’s something magical about working on a horror film. There are no boundaries, and you aren’t expected to write in a particular way. Creative tension is a lot of fun in music, and I learned a lot of that from working on Tales From the Crypt.

What other projects do you have in the works?

Marc Vanocur: I’m working on multiple films at the moment; I just finished the score for Let There Be Light, which will be premiering at the end of the year. I’m completing my second horror score for Phillip Guzman, 200 Hours. I’m also working with director Carmine Cangialosi on the adventure/drama American Dresser. It’s like Easy Rider meets Crazy Heart.


To learn more about Vanocur, visit his official SoundCloud page and website, and listen to a sample of his score from Dead Awake below.

Note: Above photo courtesy of Breaker PR.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.