Horror Pride Month: Film Composer Edwin Wendler
Edwin Wendler was born to music. His Japanese mother, a pianist and vocalist, was studying music at Rutgers when her professor mentioned that if she was really serious, he had a contact in Vienna, Austria who could further train her to sing. She, of course, leaped at the opportunity. She had been there only a short time when she met Wendler’s father, an Austrian opera singer and operetta director.
“I grew up with music,” Wendler explained as we sat down to chat as part of iHorror’s Horror Pride Month celebration. “My dad took me to rehearsals sometimes and I watched a lot of opera and ballet performances. We, as a family, would often go to classical music concerts. So that was my background. I realize that a vast majority of film composers now, their backgrounds are in bands—all types of different bands—and interesting musical adventures. Mine was super traditional. I became a Vienna Choir Boy, not because I wanted to but because my mom wanted me to. I was never quite happy there, but I learned a lot.”
What he learned were the fundamentals of music: melody, harmony, rhythm, and tone. As part of being a member of the Vienna Boys Choir, he was required to learn an instrument. He chose piano and was soon composing and improvising his own music rather than practicing the pieces he was given to learn.
In the meantime, his father would add an additional element to the budding composer-to-be’s toolbox.
“I had always been a fan of film music since early childhood,” the composer said.. “My dad had a collection of albums—like everybody at the time—of the Star Wars movies and Superman and he even had Tron which surprised me. I listened to those. I remember as a kid one of my earliest memories of wanting to see a movie was E.T. because there was such a hype around the movie. My dad was kind of sick and tired of hearing about it, and he didn’t want to see it. So I saved up what little money I had as a kid and presented my dad with pocket change saying, ‘I’m going to pay for your ticket.’ So he took me, and I was absolutely mesmerized by that music.”
The steady diet of James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, and even Alan Silvestri’s Back to the Future score set the young man’s imagination on fire.
Despite Wendler’s artistic background, it was also a very conservative one. His mother, especially, held onto very strict social ideas. Thus, when he came out around the age of 22, she had a harder time dealing with the news than his father who did his best to reassure his son that though he was surprised, he still loved his son very much.
“I was studying film music here in LA about a year later, and I called my mom on Mother’s Day and wished her a happy mother’s day and she said, ‘There’s nothing to celebrate,'” he said. “I asked why and she said, ‘Because I gave birth to you.’ I realize that was the depression speaking but that strikes you to the core when you hear that from your own mother. We’ve gotten better since then but there’s always a coldness there when I talk to her. I think she’s still not over the gay thing.”
It’s a situation that’s sadly all too common in the LGBTQ+ community, and one that we all face in our own way. Still, Wendler’s career was beginning to take flight and the work itself is therapeutic.
So how exactly does someone transition from loving the score to Star Wars to scoring, I Spit on Your Grave 3?
Well, like most of us, the groundwork for the love of genre films was also laid at an early age. Wendler’s mother was working for the United Nations at the time. They actually had a video store that stocked international films. As he grew up, there were no few horror titles in the mix including the films of John Carpenter. He watched The Prince of Darkness and The Thing–a film that remains one of his favorites to this day due in no small part to the incredible score created for the film by Ennio Morricone.
“In horror,” he said, “you can write really crazy music. It’s the kind of stuff that would be approved in no other genre. It’s the kind of thing that you write the unexpected and you are welcomed. That freedom is something that’s very attractive to me and any chance I can get to experiment and do crazy stuff with music I embrace. ”
One of his earliest jobs was came with NBC’s Fear Factor, the competition show which had contestants facing their fears to try and win a cash prize.
The task? Make the music more cinematic.
“Some might argue that the concept of Fear Factor might be ridiculous,” Wendler explained. “You have these people who make fools of themselves on national television, but I treated it like it was a hundred million dollar action movie. The second segment was always the scary segment. That’s where I got some of my horror scoring chops. I learned a lot by treating it seriously and I think filmmakers appreciate that approach.”
Then came the magical year when he had three horror projects almost simultaneously: Unnatural, Tales of Halloween, and I Spit on Your Grave 3: Vengeance is Mine.
With Unnatural, the task was create a score as cold as the landscape in the Alaska where the film takes place. With Tales of Halloween, it was three days work, composing for a brief sequence in the anthology that recalled Friday the 13th and the work of Harry Manfredini. This was particularly fun for Wendler as Manfredini had composed one of his personal favorite film scores with House.
When it came to I Spit on Your Grave, the filmmakers decided to hire Wendler based on music he’s written for another film called Broken Angel. That score was meant to be a dramatic score that telegraphed no emotional cues. Something in that music resonated for them the creative team who were trying to bring a different energy to the franchise by the third film.
“The main character is in a dilemma,” Wendler said. “She was a mass murderer that we could also relate to. So I had to telegraph all of that through music. It was an exciting project. I just felt blessed that I was able to explore all those things. It shows you how versatile and multi-faceted horror can be.”
The composer continues to work, despite setbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He’s been scoring video games for Chinese-based game company, Tencent, and has worked on films like Walpurgis Night, which is currently listed in post-production on IMDb.
“I always feel lucky to have any work at all,” he said. “My philosophy and my attitude is that I want to work on every project as though it will be my last. I listen to tons of film music and some of it sounds by-the-numbers. I want to do my best so if they don’t call back to work with me again at least I can say I tried. Hopefully, I won’t feel too much like it’s my fault. I always mention John Williams. I remember listening to the first piece on the Harry Potter soundtrack and I thought, this is incredibly busy writing. John Williams did not make it easy for himself even though he has all these Academy Awards and accolades, and I really admire that he gives everything all the time. That attitude has served me well.”
It certainly has, and we’re looking forward to the next Wendler score!
‘Ghostbusters’ Receives Slime-Covered, Glow-in-the-Dark Sega Genesis Cartridge
Sega Genesis’ Ghostbusters game was a complete blast and with the recent updates, patching in Winston and a few other characters was a much-needed update. The underrated game has recently seen an explosion in popularity thanks to those updates. Gamers are checking the full game out on Emulator sites. In addition, @toy_saurus_games_sales released some Sega Genesis game cartridges covered in glow-in-the-dark.
The Insta account @toy_saurus_games_sales is giving fans a chance to purchase the game for $60. The awesome cartridge also comes with a full-fledged exterior case.
Have you played the Ghostbusters game for Sega Genesis? If you have, let us know what you think.
In order to purchase the limited edition, slime-covered game cartridge head over HERE.
John Wick in Development for a Sequel and a Video Game
John Wick 4 was a complete blast and the ending pointed at the odd fact that John Wick might actually be… dead. I didn’t believe it for a second. Not John Wick. The dude is a tank. Lionsgate has already greenlit development for a John Wick 5.
That isn’t all the studio has in store though. It also appears that we will receive a big triple-A game based on the Baba Yaga.
“What is official is that, as you know, Ballerina is the first spinoff that comes out next year,” President of Lionsgate Joe Drake said, “We’re in development on three others, including and including television series, “The Continental”, will be airing soon. And so, we’re building out the world and when that fifth movie comes, will be organic — will be organically grown out of how we’re starting to tell those stories. But you can rely on a regular cadence of John Wick.”
In addition to those awesome projects, we also have The Continental TV spinoff coming and a whole new Ballerina film based on the assassins introduced in John Wick 3.
The synopsis for John Wick 4 went like this:
With the price on his head ever increasing, legendary hit man John Wick takes his fight against the High Table global as he seeks out the most powerful players in the underworld, from New York to Paris to Japan to Berlin.
Are you guys excited about a John Wick 5 and a full-on, shoot-em-up video game based on Wick? Let us know in the comments section.
Tim Burton Documentary Features Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp, and Other Regulars
Tim Burton will always be a part of horror for us. He has a page indexed here and we love it. From Beetlejuice to Ed Wood the director has broken the mold time and time again. A documentary focused on Burton is headed to Cannes this year and will feature all of the director’s co-conspirators in action.
The four-part documentary features Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Jenna Ortega, composer Danny Elfman, Christopher Walken, Danny DeVito, Mia Wasikowska, and Christoph Waltz. All of these awesome actors to talk about their time with Burton.
“Tim continues to build his aesthetic, the Burton-esque style, derived from a wealth of art, cinematic, and literary genres,” the release says “The documentary explores how Burton brings his vision to life through his own joyous idiosyncrasy and his ability to meld the ominous and the frightful with a sense of whimsy. Tim’s films are just the tip of the iceberg.”
The documentary will take us through Burton’s life and many adored films.
Are you excited to see Burton’s documentary? Let us know in the comments section.