By Randall D. Larson © 2011
Stepping aside from the graphic excesses of the horror thrillers HATCHET and HATCHET 2 for the more subtle psychological terrors of FROZEN, director Adam Green has made an excellent what-would-you-do-if thriller about the worst ski-trip ever. Recently released on DVD and Blu Ray by Anchor Bay, FROZEN is kind of an OPEN WATER on a ski lift: through careless happenstance, three skiers are forgotten on a shut-down ski-lift when the resort closes down for the week. Too high to get down, they face a frozen death or various unsuitable choices of potential escape. Rivetingly shot on location on a real Utah ski-lift, writer-director Green makes the most of the story through dialog, excellent performances by the three leads, and a spooky orchestral score by Andy Garfield.
Garfield was born in Fullerton, California, in 1974, and grew up with an inclination toward music from an early age. “When I was ten my grandparents bought a piano,” he remembered. “I would visit them and I became hooked on just sitting and improvising for hours on end.” Garfield played the trombone in his junior and senior high school bands, and then went on to study film scoring at the University of Southern California with Buddy Baker from 1992-1996.
He began scoring short films right after graduating from USC, and was hired as one of three composers on the Fox Family Channel’s cartoon series, BAD DOG in 1998. He wrote the music for the MEN IN BLACK ALIEN ATTACK attraction at Universal Studios Florida in 2000, riffing on the style Danny Elfman has established in the feature films. That gig likely led to his being hired to score the TV series THEME PARK SECRETS three years later. But Garfield made his first big film musical impression in a little slice of backwoods Louisiana swamp life called HATCHET (2006). Director Adam Green proved to be a capable and stylish director and, aided by Garfield’s potent score, HATCHET went on to become a hit on the festival circuit and generate a sequel in 2008.
Garfield met Green when both were invited to participate on a panel of people involved in making short films to be help at the Notre Dame Academy (a Catholic High School) in Sherman Oaks, CA in 2003. “We happened to be seated next to each other, and proceeded to tell the students and their parents that you don’t really need to go to film school to make it, and just go out and make films and get experience and meet people,” Green said. “We weren’t invited back! After the panel, Adam asked if I’d like to help him with a mock trailer he was making for this horror film he had – HATCHET.”
Garfield’s score effectively supports the film’s initial humor (especially his wild festive music for the Ghost Tour bus) and then its relentless horror. He and Green had put together a temp track for his slasher film with, of all things, John Williams’ score to JURASSIC PARK “and it sort of went from there,” he said. Both of Garfield’s HATCHET jobs were scored with electronic instruments. “There was no money for any live recording, so I performed the entire score using various sample libraries,” he recalled. “The same was the case with HATCHET 2.”
Garfield hadn’t been a huge horror film fan and as it turned out he hadn’t seen the big horror films that inspired Green and his fellow filmmaker friends. “As a result, I came at it more ‘fresh’ than some veteran horror film composers,” noted Garfield. “Adam wanted me to just ‘do my thing’ rather than ape existing horror film scoring trends. Also, I wanted to score to have more emotion and pathos in it than other slasher films have had – I really wanted the audience to feel bad when not only the main cast died, but when Victor was injured. He’s not evil, he’s just angry and confused.”
With HATCHET 2, Garfield had an opportunity to develop his musical nuances from the first score into even darker territories. “Even before we shot the film, it felt like we were making the DARK KNIGHT of slasher films,” he said. “As such we temped a lot of the film with that score, along with the score from HATCHET and FROZEN. It’s a much darker film with way more blood and a lot less humor.”
When Andy Green came to write and direct FROZEN for production company A Bigger Boat, he brought Garfield with him to provide its chilling orchestral score. “I was one of the first people to read the script, just a couple of days after Adam finished it,” he said. “He told me that typically while he’s writing, he knows exactly what the music should be, but with this, he really had no idea. When Adam writes, he usually puts names of our friends as names of the characters. Sometimes they stick, but most of the time they change by shooting. So when I read the script, I had vivid images in my mind of all these terrible things happening to our friends! I got really emotionally involved in the story as a result, and told Adam that whatever we do, we have to get the audience to feel the emotion that I felt reading the script and imagining our friends. I decided that the best way to accomplish that was with a legit ensemble of strings and percussion. Ultimately, we totally broke that rule and had piano and some low brass, but it was done in the spirit of the original intentions.”
FROZEN’s restrictive setting and few characters gave Garfield’s music the added responsibility to enhance the size and, especially, the psychological scope of the story, as the characters come to face their dire circumstances quite differently. “That restrictive setting really was the starting point for me, and I wanted to use a restricted ensemble and challenge myself in a similar way,” he said. “That was one factor in deciding what the palette would be. The second thing – and this was surprisingly difficult – was to keep the emotional parts from being even slightly melodramatic. Adam and I agreed very early on that this would totally ruin those important scenes, so I would write a cue and then strip it down, and then strip it down again until it was the bare minimum instruments, melodic and supporting content. The simpler it was, the better.”
Despite the success of Green’s first HATCHET film, the budget for FROZEN wasn’t much larger than that. Still, Garfield and Green agreed that FROZEN should not be a wholly electronic score but should have some organic, acoustic elements. “It was decided early on that we would definitely have live strings,” Garfield said. “Not all of the strings in the score are live – most of the special effects are digital samples, but the melodic parts are all live. As far as music budget, I’ll just say that A Bigger Boat got the music deal of 2009 and they know it.”
Green’s new film, CHILLERAMA, is now production and he’s already brought Garfield on board. This movie is a four-part anthology film with different directors helming each of the four segments (Joe Lynch, Adam Rifkin, and Tim Sullivan are the other three). Green’s is called “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein” and Garfield is looking forward to lining up a classically-styled score for the episode. “Like the films themselves, the score is going to be all over the place,” he said. “From a 30’s horror-style score in the vein of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN to much more modern and contemporary music.”
Andy Garfield’s musical score for FROZEN has been released on 2m1 Records, which will also shortly release an album containing music from both HATCHET and HATCHET 2. For information, see www.2m1records.com/