Horror film (and score) fans are in for a treat today. Alex Cuervo’s memorable music from Shudder’s Scare Package I and II and Revealer films are available to pre-order on glorious analogue cassette tape from beloved record label Ship to Shore PhonoCo. That’s not all, though. Vehlinggo also has an exclusive interview with Cuervo (AKA Espectrostatic) and we’ll talk plenty about the music (and his hopes for a third Scare Package).
For those who haven’t seen the Scare Package flicks yet, here’s the deal. Creators Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns and their collaborators unleash a handful of compelling short films as part of an overarching narrative in a style that’s called “portmanteau horror.” (For example, the first one features folks in a video store as a starting off point for each of the shorts.) Although the horror scene has plenty of excellent anthology films, the creators wanted to go beyond the standard template and add a healthy dose of subversion. It’s an act brimful of love for the genre. I would absolutely love to see these films in a movie theatre at midnight.
Cuervo’s dark, synth-laden fare adds layers of unsettling but satisfying nuance, paired with a healthy dose of rock sensibilities. You wouldn’t be wrong to find influences from maestros such as John Carpenter and Goblin, but Cuervo isn’t one to mimic. He’s too good for that.
Scare Package and Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge are on a single cassette and available for pre-order now. They will ship in the third quarter of this year.
The other soundtrack, for Director Luke Boyce’s Revealer, shows Cuervo taking a different approach to match the 1980s nostalgia that flows heavily in the film. The artist, known for his dark synthwave releases, lays it on thick in a good way — unfurling a seedy sense of apprehension and intrigue. However, there is a point in the film that calls for a more organic approach and he lives up to the challenge all around. He has to, because the story needs a composer with some creative audacity. The film takes place in Chicago in the ’80s at the eponymous strip club. Dancer Angie works earnestly while unhinged religious types outside protest. Amid all of that is a malignant ambiance that traps Angie with Sally, one of the protesters, and the horrors end up driving them to work together.
You can pre-order this release, too, right now, and it also ships in the third quarter of the year.
Tracklist info for all releases will follow the interview at the bottom of this page. First, though, let’s dive into these scores with the artist, who recently exchanged some emails with Vehlinggo that, well, revealed a whole package of interesting bits. (Also, don’t sleep on the quality of the physical product itself. The art and design choices are great. Click the images you’ll see in the interview for greater detail.)
On Scare Package II
Vehlinggo: What was it like to score for this series this time around? Did you approach composition differently and if so, how?
Cuervo: It was a blast! As far as the individual segments went — each one operated a little differently, depending on the folks I was working with, their preferred workflow, and their schedules (which I was used to from the first film). The only big difference this time around was that in the direct sequels, we already had some musical precedent to build off of. For example, the killer’s theme in The Night He Came Back Again, or any of the Rad Chad wraparound segments.
In general what’s it like to return to the fold for a sequel?
It was great. I love working with the Paper Street team. We’ve developed a strong relationship over the many years we’ve worked together.
Which characters or vignettes were among your favorite to score for?
That’s a tough choice! I truly enjoyed myself working on all of the vignettes, but I think I had the biggest smile when I was working on the climax of The Night He Came Back Again VI and the action scenes in We’re So Dead — those both have wild, manic energy that is really fun to write music for. I also have a lot of fun whenever I get to do more rock & roll type stuff like the cover of “Friends Forever” or the grungy tune in Welcome to the 90s. And finally, I really hope we get to do a third installment, so I can explore the bigger, badder Devil’s Lake Impaler theme we introduced near the end of the film.
Tell me a bit about how you approached scoring this one — this film has a rather delightful ’80s kitschy vibe to it. (Bloody Disgusting called it “neon soaked.”)
Luke [Boyce] and I decided early on that everything that happens above ground would be more synthy and ’80s/’90s pastiche, but once the protagonists go underground the score would evolve to incorporate more raw, acoustic, and organic elements. There are still synthesizers in the second half, but they’re not as much in the forefront. I’m very drawn to clangy-bangy, distorted and lo-fi sounds, so I’m much more in my wheelhouse when I get to incorporate those elements.
What was a particularly noteworthy experience while working on Revealer, whether it was something rewarding or challenging?
Luke and I really hit it off creatively. He’s very good at communicating what specifically is or isn’t working for him, making my job a lot less of a guessing game and ultimately more rewarding. Over the course of the film, our workflow evolved very rapidly to the point where we were editing and reworking bits of the score together over Zoom in real time — it was pretty wild!
At what point in the process were you brought in to score Revealer?
I was brought on board once they were picture-locked and ready to kick off post-production.
Why are you attracted to genre films?
Because they’re the best! If it wasn’t for my love of genre films, I might never have pursued writing music to picture. I’ve been obsessed with horror and sci-fi as far back as I can remember.
“Scoring genre films is my dream job!”
On the Art of the Score
How did you get into making horror-themed, largely electronic music (whether for a film or for your Espectrostatic project) and why? I recall that you have a sizable rock/punk background, including the Eerie Family project. You’re joining a long line of such folks who started in, say, rock and ended up scoring. (Cliff Martinez being a notable example for his use of synthesis.)
Espectrostatic was born from my desire to score films (genre films, specifically). I’d been playing in punk rock and garage rock bands for many years, but I’d fantasized about writing film music for a very long time. Around 2010 I was kind of at a crossroads as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I knew I wanted to work on films, but I was torn between studying film editing and learning how to score films. Ultimately, given my background, music made the most sense. So, I began studying music theory and taking piano lessons. Eventually, I enrolled in online classes to study writing music for TV and film. Once I’d begun tinkering with all of that, Espectrostatic was a way for me to kind of bridge the gap between what I’d been doing, and what I wanted to do moving forward.
What sort of particular challenges are there with scoring for an anthology vs. one, singular narrative?
An anthology is much more time-consuming and challenging — simply due to the number of different people I’m working with. It’s very rewarding, but also pretty wild lurching back and forth between different directors and workflows. The Paper Street folks have a good handle on things, which is immensely helpful. It’s a unique challenge, and one I’ll happily embark on again if given the opportunity, but I definitely prefer working on one longer story where I can go much deeper in developing the musical themes and identity that a feature film requires.
What are you doing next? What do you want to do next/?
I’m currently scoring a horror film called Cannibal Mukbang, which is all kinds of fun. It looks like I’ll have another feature lined up soon after that (also horror with some sci-fi elements), which I’m looking forward to. I’d love to find the time to work on another Eerie Family album and to explore another different musical idea I’ve been kicking around. But honestly, if the films keep coming, I’m happy to carve out the space required for them. Scoring genre films is my dream job!
Scare Package Tracklists
SIDE A: Scare Package
1. Babysitting on Halloween
2. The Shears
3. I Wouldn’t Do That
4. Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium
5. I’m Dangerous
6. The Backwoods Slasher
7. Hunting a Creature
8. We Are Pure Carnal Instincts
9. The Lollipop
10. The Stalker
11. The Slumber Party
12. The Final Kill
13. The Final Final Kill
14. The Final Final Final Kill
15. The Final Final Final Final Kill
16. The Final Final Final Final Final Kill
17. The Final Final Final Final Final Final Kill
18. The Smoke
19. Battle of Mages
20. That’s Horror Logic
21. The Devil’s Lake Impaler
23. The Impaler’s Lair
24 You Mess With The Bull, You Get The Horns
25. Gotta Split
26. Everybody Dies in the End
SIDE B: Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge
1. Everybody Dies in the End
2. Friends Forever, in Hell
3. Hey Tony
4. We’ll Make Her One of Us
5. Party Like We’ve Never Partied Before
6. You Puked My Arm Off!
7. Is This Real?
8. Liquid Courage
9. The Night He Came Back Again
10. The Cabin
11. Doctor Castle
13. The Final Will
14. The Night SHE Came Back
15. Sam’s Always There
16. And That’s What Makes Us Special
17. Special Edition
19. Lil’ Chad, Big Problems
20. Such Sights to Show
21. You’re the Square
22. The Lab
23. That’s My Girlfriend You Dead Freak
24. Mad Science
25. We’re SO Dead
26. A Good Old Fashioned Show Down
27. The Showdown
28. The Guy from Jurassic Park
29. It Was Reanimator
30 The Impaler Returns
31. Play Me
1. Let’s Pray Shall We
3. I Am Not Dying in a Peep Show Booth
5. Old Bootlegger Tunnels
6. Breaking Point
7. Break Through
10. David and the Creature of Judgment
2. Angie’s Story
3. Door Number Two
4. Fork in the Road
6. Psalm 23
11. Ass Mode Ass
12. Demon Filled Caverns
13. The Church