This weekend, moviegoers will return for more madness with "The Purge: Anarchy," the sequel to last summer's horror hit "The Purge." The violent and extreme future world of the film, where crime reigns free for 24 hours once a year, is a bit different from other traditional horror films, in that it isn't the supernatural that invokes fear, but humanity's darkest desires. And helping to convey that tone is composer Nathan Whitehead, who has scored both films in the franchise.
Starting his career at a sound design company, and working nights and weekends on his own material, Whitehead's persistence eventually paid off, as he contributed music and arrangements to variety of projects including "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," "Pride and Glory," "Your Highness" and more, along with video game work as well. But it's "The Purge" films where Whitehead is really establishing his footprint and musical voice, and you can hear it in the full stream of his moody and menacing score.
"The Purge: Anarchy" soundtrack is in stores today, and you can listen to the whole thing below, but first, check out our brief interview with Whitehead, discussing his approach to the films, inspirations and more. The sequel opens on Friday, July 18th.
1. Did you and writer/director James DeMonaco have a different approach to "The Purge: Anarchy" than with "The Purge"?
Our work process was very similar to what we did on "The Purge" but we did feel we needed to take a slightly different musical approach. In "Anarchy", the story opens up a lot more and takes place throughout the city with multiple characters and story lines that intersect and we felt that we had to reflect this larger scope in the music. There's a lot more action and also some more intimate moments. Overall, there was more emotional range that the score had to cover.
2. What has been the biggest challenge in writing music for these films?
I think the biggest challenge was figuring out the overall musical tone. I think these projects are unique in that anything that sounded too traditionally horror felt wrong and anything too traditionally action-sounding also felt wrong. We were looking for this emotional foundation that felt unique to the world of The Purge and it was usually subtle—some sound or element that spoke to the ever-present weight of the purge looming and the madness of the night even as people just went about their normal routines. Finding that sound world between horror and thriller and action was really fun and probably the biggest challenge.
3. Where there other horror or thrillers that you looked toward for musical inspiration?
Sure, I'm a big fan of Cliff Martinez. I think he does minimal tension really well and creates these amazing, evocative synth soundscapes. I also think Chris Young's score to "Sinister" was a really cool, contemporary horror score. Very interesting sound design elements which is something I love to do. We also talked about Ennio Morricone's score for "The Thing" which has these simple, building motifs that create this great tension and sense of foreboding. At the end of the day we tried to take all these conversations and hopefully distill them into a unique musical vocabulary for "The Purge." It challenging but a lot of fun!