Seven years after being founded, it’s safe to say that Shudder has made its mark as one of the go to places for audiences to find classic and obscure horror titles. It also has a small, but growing list of exclusive movies and TV series as well, which includes the acclaimed original series Creepshow (based loosely on the 1982 anthology film written by Stephen King and directed by George Romero) and the anthology film series, V/H/S.
Another recently released original title garnering attention is Taneli Mustonen’s The Twin. The Twin follows the aftermath of a tragic accident that claimed the life of one of their twins, Rachel (Teresa Palmer) and husband Anthony (Steven Cree) relocate to the other side of the world with their surviving son in the hopes of building a new life. What begins as a time of healing in the quiet Scandinavian countryside soon takes an ominous turn when Rachel begins to unravel the torturous truth about her son and confronts the malicious forces attempting to take a hold of him.
There are many aspects that stick out about the film, the haunting score by Panu Aaltio being one of them. When asked how he would describe his score, Panu says, “The score combines classical instruments playing the grief and melancholy, to gritty synthesizers and processed vocals that bring out the darkness and evil in the story”. We wanted to learn more about how The Twin score was made, so we conducted the below Q&A with Panu.
Did you always know you wanted to be a composer? How did you break into the business?
I hadn’t really thought of composing and music production as something you can do until my parents bought me a Commodore Amiga when I was seven years old, and I discovered a music program on it. I quickly got hooked on trying out different melodies, chords and sounds.
At 20 years old I followed the advice of my mentor Tuomas Kantelinen and offered my music to the local film school in Helsinki. Those relationships grew to become my first theatrical feature film scoring gigs five years later.
You are from Helsinki. Do you think your approach or sound is at all different than say American composers because of where you have grown up geographically?
Absolutely, I think there’s a sort of melancholy and stillness to Finnish culture that comes very naturally to my music. I did watch a ton of American films and TV when I was growing up, so I feel it’s quite effortless to move between those two worlds. But those Nordic sensibilities will always be there when I need them.
How did you become involved with The Twin?
A couple years earlier the producer Aleksi Hyvärinen mentioned there was a new horror movie in development, and I said I’d definitely be interested if the film moves forward. Once I read the script the following year, I thought this is something I absolutely must score!
You have worked with director Taneli Mustonen before on Lake Bodom. How was your experience different with The Twin then Lake Bodom?
In Lake Bodom we were under a tight schedule and it was a sprint to the finish line. With The Twin we spent more time trying out different things. Taneli likes to work in an iterative fashion, so we discussed and experimented a lot more this time around.
Sound design plays an integral role in horror films and a lot of the time is interwoven with the score. What was it like working with the sound department on this film?
We had a very collaborative relationship with the sound designer Akseli Soini, and the definitions of music and sound get blurred quite decisively. For example, I used sounds from a marble maze toy in the movie as a basis for some percussive sounds, and in turn Akseli took my cello recordings and built eerie atmospheres from them.
Was there an instrument that you frequently gravitated towards for The Twin?
The human voice when used in strange ways can be really unsettling, and it’s definitely the most used single element in this score. I even used a death poem from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, reading it into a microphone and processing it into a sinister and unnatural chant in the pagan ritual music.
Do you have a favorite scene in The Twin, musically?
It is probably when we play the ritual music again in the forest. I hadn’t even thought of using it there, but Taneli and Akseli put it there as a test, and suddenly it just transformed this action scene into an extension of our main character’s greatest fears. I love how powerful it feels now.
You have also scored video games such as Apache: Air Assault and Saga. Is there a big difference between scoring video games and a film like The Twin?
With games you almost never know exactly when your music will play relative to the action. You have to really plan for a lot of different scenarios, and you’ll probably still be surprised how it feels when you actually play the game. Films are a controlled environment, and you can be much more specific in how you sculpt a moment in time.
What would be your dream project to score?
I love big soaring adventure and sci-fi, so to score something like that is on the bucket list for sure!
SEE ALSO: Read our review of The Twin here
Thanks to Panu Aaltio for taking the time for this interview.