The Mist TV show had a lot to live up to, but the biggest challenge that Christian Torpe's adaptation faced wasn't to match Stephen King's original story or Frank Darabont's movie. No, the biggest challenge facing The Mist was finding a way to make the intangible scary, something that he nailed thanks in part to composer Giona Ostinelli.
As the man behind the music heard in The Mist, Ostinelli's job was to evoke fear in the viewer, even when literally nothing could be seen on screen. Giona has had extensive experience composing scores for TV before, working on shows such as Bones, Homeland, and Elementary, so such experience undoubtedly helped in this regard.
From the unusual sounds used to convey the mist's otherworldly threat to the fragile compositions that represent each character's struggle to survive, Ostinelli's score played a pivotal role in bringing The Mist to life. Movie Pilot was fortunate enough to dive head-first into the soundscape that Giona created for this latest Stephen King adaptation and discover the secrets behind the score.
How Did Giona Ostinelli Approach This Project?
The Mist TV show was never supposed to be a direct translation of Stephen King's work or Frank Darabont's movie, so Ostinelli avoided looking back at these versions of the story for inspiration. Instead, Giona collaborated closely with show runner Christian Torpe to craft something new:
"When I was brought on board for 'The Mist,' Christian described his vision behind the score to me as 'hauntingly beautiful and terrifying, with touches of insanity.' And that’s where it all started. Then I read the scripts and even before I had a cut to work with, I began experimenting with sounds building a sound palette for the series... However, since 'The Mist' series is not a continuation of the film but rather a re-imagination of the original storyline of the book, I didn’t want to be directly influenced by the film’s score... I think it’s much more creative to jump into the unknown from the very beginning without a guide track. This way, you can create your own music universe."
Rather than tackle each episode individually, Ostinelli took a holistic approach to The Mist. This enabled him to develop a wider overview of how the themes within both the show and the score would develop concurrently alongside each another:
"We started working on the episodes sequentially. However, this season was treated with a very cinematic approach — therefore I had a lot creative freedom within the whole season. At some point, I ended up working on all 10 episodes at the same time, which was great because I was able to really see how the score develops. Any cool ideas that I would get in later episodes, I was then able to introduce in earlier episodes and create really nice arcs. I definitely love this way of working because I’m able to really develop the material and play around with it."
One theme in particular came to embody the show like no other and that was the "nature" theme that often accompanied Frances Conroy's character, Nathalie Raven. Ostinelli cites this particular track as his favorite from the show due to the unique way it evolves with the story:
"I like how this [nature] theme slowly develops from Episode 1, progressing and taking more shape throughout the season, evolving from literally nothing, from one simple pad, reaching its climax at the end in Episode 10. On the soundtrack, 'Nature Can Be So Cruel' is the full version of this theme, which quickly became one of my favorite themes for the show. It’s always performed by a string quartet and has a beautiful haunting quality, definitely 'with touches of insanity' as it becomes one with Natalie’s bending detuned piano motif."
How Giona Ostinelli Reflected The Themes Of The Mist In His Score
It was important to Ostinelli that he differentiate between the mist itself and the characters who fight against it, using different instruments and textures to represent them thematically in his score:
"Our characters are imperfect. The mist brings out their flawed nature, revealing their darkest secrets... I wanted to portray their complex emotions with an intimate and fragile sound of chamber strings and detuned pianos... A perfectly tuned piano just wasn’t right, it had to be something imperfect. I detuned and recorded several pianos to portray the brokenness of our characters."
Each main character was accompanied by their own individual themes that developed throughout the season, much like their personalities did as the mist continued to unleash new terrors upon the town of Bridgton. Interestingly, the relationships shared between some of the main cast were also represented in the score. For example, "Alex has her own theme, so does her relationship with Jay. Kevin and Eve have their family theme and Kevin and Mike have a theme portraying their relationship."
As anyone who's finished the first season of the show can attest to, the titular mist itself is also a key character throughout. In a stroke of genius, Ostinelli took a different approach here to make this unusual "figure" stand out musically:
"Unlike the characters, I didn’t want to give the mist a specific theme, but rather a texture, more of a presence. Our characters don’t know what’s out there in the mist and I wanted to reflect that uncertainty musically."
Conventional use of instruments would not have fully conveyed the ethereal presence of the mist, so Ostinelli made some bold choices in his approach:
"I started by recording various regular (pianos, solo strings, dulcimers) and less ordinary instruments and sounds (Tibetan bowls, wood benches, breaths, screams and vocal rhythmic patterns, clocks), sampling them and applying some magic to achieve a complex and terrifying texture for the mist... I wanted to use the piano more like a tension building rhythmic element, I wanted to explore how to create suspenseful textures without actually hitting the black and white keys. To achieve that, I recorded phrases by hitting the piano strings with various mallets. I created rhythmic patterns by bowing the strings with the little dulcimer bows, first softly and gently and other times harshly and aggressively — that sounded like when you saw a log..."
Any viewers who thought that they heard voices in the mist were not mistaken. Not only were there resurrected characters lurking within the fog, but Ostinelli also used human voices as part of the musical texture that accompanied the mist:
"I wanted to explore how to utilize the voice in a manner other than singing, more like a rhythmic percussive instrument. So what I did was record lots of rhythmic breaths, phrases, accents or different patters with strong syllables (like tike-tike- tike or tike-tike- tike-ta)."
Get Lost In The Mist... Soundtrack
Although he's a fan of legendary #horror scores such as Bernard Herrmann's work with Alfred Hitchcock or Jerry Goldsmith's compositions for Alien and The Omen, Ostinelli is proud to have created something distinctive and new with his work that feature on The Mist:
"I’m very proud that I got a chance to work with such an awesome team of creative and inspiring people on a Stephen King property and we were able to give this show a distinctive recognizable tone, much different from the other films and television series."
Music may not be the first thing that fans think of when considering a new #StephenKing adaptation, but Giona Ostinelli has crafted something very special here. As he himself said to us:
"Music is such a vital part of our everyday life. On screen, music gives you a whole different layer of emotions, it helps you connect with the story and the characters. Music is like another character in the film that isn’t on screen, but is always present."
Listen out for Ostinelli's work next in a female-driven thriller called M.F.A. and the neo-noir drama Like Me. In the meantime though, listen to #TheMist score in full via the usual digital retailers, including iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.
What do you think of the score for The Mist? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!