For us, The Invisible Man was all about contrast and going against an audience’s expectation in order to create that tension. It was really fun to give Leigh the stems from our final score mixes, and let him do what we wanted. Because he also does a lot of work on the dub stage with remixing and re-crafting some cues in a way which aligns with how he’s incorporating the sound design.

I loved seeing him do that and emphasize and amp up our approach. It was really exciting for me. So, yeah, silence is something important to consider and, in this particular case, we were using silence as an analog to a presence that you cannot see.

MM: In some ways, it reminds me of Jaws and what John Williams did to establish the villain (the great white shark) when the mechanical shark was not working or seen on camera. Creating a musical identity for a villain the viewer can’t see.

Benjamin Wallfisch: We certainly referenced Jaws as the pinnacle of what we were trying to do where the simplest motifs can create such fear in something so innocuous. So, yes, we created our own version of that—Invisible Man was definitely inspired by having a motif that just quietly creeps up on you and gets under your skin. It’s almost like the viewer doesn’t quite know if what they’re hearing is a score element or a sound design element.

We called our Invisible Man motif “The Growl”—it’s a synth that’s always changing its form. That was very deliberately chosen in contrast to the string orchestra that is very much from a serious point of view. The Cecilia Kass character is so strong where everything is going up in flames around her in the most unimaginable way but she still maintains this shred of sanity and strength, so it was important that the music and her themes in specifically have that insistence and strength inside of it and be a motif that quietly continues to build. The invisible man’s motif couldn’t be more different from Cecilia’s motif.

Benjamin Wallfisch Invisible Man

The Invisible Man, starring Elisabeth Moss, is scored by Benjamin Wallfisch.

MM: To that point, are there any moments from your collaboration with Leigh on Invisible Man that stand out to you?

Benjamin Wallfisch: Well, what I try and do when I first start on a score is write a suite of themes. I felt this movie was so strong emotionally after I first saw it without any temp, that I went in and wrote a 12-minute piece over a weekend. I showed it to Leigh and he immediately knew what he did and did not like and he began to put the music into the film right there.

The final sequence of the film comes from that original suite which I wrote at the beginning of the process. We didn’t have much time—I think we only had something like 4 weeks to do the whole score, so there was a lot of going with your instincts and no compromise. It can be a lot of fun when you don’t have that much time because you’ve just got to keep going. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way, I think a lot of other composers feel similarly. You often do some of your best work under those circumstances.

The Invisible Man, directed by Leigh Whannell, with a score by Benjamin Wallfisch, is one of several films being released early today on video-on-demand.

John Campopiano is the co-writer/producer of Georgie and Pennywise: The Story of IT, and co-writer/producer/director of Unearthed & Untold.