The Escape Interview: Entering Escape Room with Composer John Carey


With Columbia Pictures’ Escape Room now playing in theaters, we’re sitting down with Composer John Carey for the sounds behind the scares.

The Intro:

It’s safe to say that without music, horror wouldn’t be what it is today. Whether it’s John Carpenter’s iconic Halloween score, bringing Michael Myers alive with brilliant sounds, or Goblin taking on George Romero’s undead, a horror film can live and die by its score.

With Columbia Pictures Escape Room currently carving its way through theaters, 1428 Elm is sitting down with Composer John Carey to get into the tunes behind the terror. Ready to enter the Escape Room?

The Interview:

— Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

1428 Elm: Doing a bit of research, I see that a lot of your work in the Industry has been music arrangement but you’re moving into composing. How did that come to be? Was composing always what you wanted to do?

John Carey: Composing for me has always been the end goal and is the reason I moved to LA years ago. Like many careers in the entertainment industry, it’s a career that takes a while to build up to. Music arranging is always a great opportunity in the meantime to use skills and knowledge as a composer while still developing your career.

1428 Elm: Music is such a powerful part of visual entertainment, were there any movies or scores you were inspired by when young?

JC: Definitely! I think films are what got me into music in the first place. As a kid my parents took me to the video rental store all the time, and lots of the movies I loved renting all happened to have John Williams scores. Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones etc..So I’d say he definitely planted a seed when I was younger that directed me into film music down the road. Music wasn’t even something I was consciously pursuing at the time either!

1428 Elm: Speaking of inspiration, I feel that is an important part of creation. Who are some of your favorite composers?

JC: There are so many! I already mentioned John Williams as one. Some of my other favorites are Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith and Ludwig Göransson. In the world of classical composers, my favorites are Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland and John Adams.

1428 Elm: You have a new movie coming out this weekend, Escape Room. According to IMDB, it’s your first feature as composer. How did that come about?

JC: Escape Room came to me as a result of my working relationship with Brian Tyler. I have been on his music team for about five years as a music arranger working on films like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Furious 8, The Mummy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to name a few. Brian knew I was working towards establishing myself as a composer, and thought that this movie would be a good fit for us to work together on.

— Courtesy of John Carey

1428 Elm: I see that you’ve scored a few documentaries before Escape Room. How does scoring a feature differ from a documentary?

JC: I’d say they are different in the sense that their respective scores tend to equal them in terms of scope. Which inherently makes them different. Avengers for example is an epic action film where the fate of the world is at stake, so the music naturally revolves around being larger than life and huge. After all, superhero movies are larger than life.

Documentaries are a different beast. They can be equally as moving as features, but the scope of the drama is often much more restrained and subdued. These are real life stories, and we put a sense of them being a part of our natural world by having the music dialed back a bit and not trying to be manipulative by being over the top. Sometimes less can be more in documentaries.

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1428 Elm: You share a composer credit on the film with Brian Tyler, did you collaborate on the score?

JC: We did collaborate from beginning to end! Working with Brian was such a great experience. I’ve been privileged to work with him on a number of films, but being able to share the driver’s seat with him on this film was an exciting new learning experience for me.

1428 Elm: Escape Room looks thrilling, and most would call it a thriller I think. Movies like this really rely on its score. Did you find that proposition challenging or intriguing? Or both?

JC: It’s definitely a welcomed challenge. I mentioned earlier that scores can be larger than life, or they can be restrained… There are aspects about both that I love, but getting to do the larger than life approach as a composer is so much fun. It gives you permission to not hold back and to make a lot of noise to create an energetic experience for the audience. The score becomes very proactive in participating with the film as a character in it’s own right.

1428 Elm: Going forward, are there any projects you’re working on or anything coming after Escape Room you want to be the word out about?

JC: I scored a great documentary directed by Michael Lei called A Taste of Sky. It’s about a culinary school in the slums of Bolivia that gives young aspiring chefs an opportunity to learn to cook high class cuisine, with the hopes that they can pursue their love of cooking as a career. It’s a great story about legacy. We are still deciding on which festivals to premiere the film at currently but we know it will premiere sometime this year!

The Conclusion:

It’s been said hard work pays off. If that’s true, Escape Room is just the beginning for John Carey.  The movie opened big last weekend, with Box Office Mojo reporting the film sitting on over $22 million worldwide — not bad on a budget of only $9 million. So if you’re think of seeing the film, we think you should. Our own Mads Lennon even thinks it should get its own franchise.

From Columbia Pictures, a subsidiary of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Escape Room is now playing in the theaters everywhere.

Next. Laurie Strode takes on Fiji Water. dark

Seen Escape Room? Looking forward to more rooms to escape? Let the other horror heads know what you think in the comment section below.