1428 Elm had the chance to chat with The Djinn composer Matthew James about the challenges of writing a retro score for a film set almost entirely in an apartment.
In The Djinn, a young mute boy (Ezra Dewey) makes a wish to gain a voice and soon finds out that there is a price to pay. With the lack of dialogue, the musical score is doubly important in a film such as this.
James has worked on the WB’s series Black Lightning, as well as the crime-thriller Arkansas, and as he tells us in this interview, he has more work coming up in the near future.
1428 Elm: So, before we get started, I wanted to let you know that I did get a chance to watch The Djinn this weekend, I really loved it.
MJ: Well, thank you!
1428 Elm: I was told by your publicist that you are a bit of a horror fan yourself.
MJ: Yeah, as a kid, some of my favorite stuff was John Carpenter’s Halloween, and then, of course, A Nightmare on Elm Street, those were some of my favorite movies I used to watch, to my Mom and Dad’s disapproval.
I haven’t kept up too much with some of the modern-day, super crazy, gory stuff, but I definitely like the roots of horror. I just remember watching all that stuff with my Dad, all the Jason, Freddie Krueger, Michal Meyers stuff. It’s kind of funny when I think back, some of the first things I learned how to play on the keyboard were the Halloween themes.
1428 Elm: Yeah, I was going to ask you what you thought of that score. I’m such a horror geek that the Halloween theme is the ringtone for my phone! So, you don’t follow too much of modern horror?
MJ: No, I haven’t recently. To be honest, it might sound weird, but as far as, like, following scores or movies in general, I like to watch them as a viewer, but I find that as a musician, my ears are like a tape recorder, so I try to not…it always seems to find a way into my music if that makes sense. So I’m sitting there like, “Oh, this is really cool”, and then it’s, “Oh…that’s the theme to such-and such!”
1428 Elm: Well, you picked a good horror film with The Djinn. You talked about not following gory horror films. I like all different types of horror, but I really love the ones that build on the suspense and don’t just lay everything out on the table for you, and I think that’s what The Djinn did.
MJ: It’s a real slow-moving build, you know. The way we went about doing the score, it takes a long time, it grows with the movie, which is nice. It’s what keeps you on edge, it keeps it interesting. It’s not just jump scares out of nowhere, even though there are a few good ones.
It’s psychological as well, which is nice. It’s just kind of the claustrophobia of the whole thing and the fact that Dylan’s mute. It was an interesting story from the minute I laid eyes on the screener when I was in consideration for it.