Barði Jóhannsson’s Inspirations Behind His “Agony” Score

The Icelandic composer made a playlist of film score favs that inspired his work on the new Asia Argento thriller.

Ever since John Carpenter elevated his unnerving movie about a guy in a Captain Kirk mask who just will not die into a full-on horror classic with his now-iconic score, music has become a key ingredient in the genre beyond the shrieking Psycho strings that have mostly fallen into the realm of parody at this point. The horror score is a genre that’s evolved as steadily as any other, building upon itself with references to classic films, modern classical music, and contemporary film scores outside of horror, consistently finding fresh ways of enhancing the terror of its complementing screenplay.

For Icelandic composer Barði Jóhannsson, the brooding, cello-and-piano-heavy score he put together for the new horror-thriller Agony creates its own sonic universe for the film to live in. With occasional bouncing synths reminiscent of Carpenter, and baroque orchestration recalling the work of the late Jóhann Jóhannsson, the OST is subtle and melancholy—seemingly an understated soundtrack for the tense film it was penned for.

“My teenage dream was to play a zombie in a B-movie,” Jóhannsson shares, as if scoring a feature film starring Asia Argento that channels the mystery and terror of her father’s movies was out of the question. “Sometimes soundtracks and film scores are better than the movie and makes it worth watching. By listening to soundtracks, you can build your own images and your own universe. A beautiful score with amazing images can make you love a film even if the script and acting is not perfect. When listening to scores, you normally have some space for thought and fantasy.”

To give us an idea of where his soundtrack came from, you can listen to a playlist of his influences below—ranging from Tangerine Dream’s Near Dark soundtrack to the Ramones’ contribution to Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.


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