Soundtrack: <I>Wrong Turn</I> composer Stephen Lukach
Issue: March/April 2021

Soundtrack: Wrong Turn composer Stephen Lukach

Wrong Turn, from director Mike P. Nelson, is a horror/thriller that follows a group of friends hiking the Appalachian Trail, who are confronted by a community of people who have lived in the mountains for hundreds of years. The remake of the 2003 film of the same name evolves beyond a slasher story to highlight the tension between two civilizations.

Composer Stephen Lukach (Sneaky Pete) created the spine-tingling score for the feature, which stars Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley and Bill Sagewas. The film was released earlier this year via Constantin Films and is available for streaming on Prime Video.

Here Lukach lends insight into his work on the film’s soundtrack, which is out now on all streaming platforms via Constantin Music.

How did you get involved in this project?

“I had first met the director Mike P. Nelson a while back when I still worked as an assistant to composer Nathan Barr, who was scoring Mike’s previous film, The Domestics, at that time. When Wrong Turn came along, Nathan put Mike and I back in touch, and suggested that he consider me to score the film, since Mike liked the additional music I had created on a couple of cues for The Domestics back then. Mike was really excited about the idea, as well as the demo tracks I put together for him. With that, he was able to get the rest of the team on board.”

As a horror/thriller, what were the musical needs?

“As is the case with most horror movies, music was an especially important part of Wrong Turn. I knew pretty early on that there would be a lot of music in order to create a constant feeling of dread and impending doom, and to amplify the intensity as much as possible in certain scenes. Mike also wanted a largely sound design-based and minimal score. During the scoring process, he likes to really boil down each cue to determine which of the sounds make up its true essence. Sometimes we would end up with only one or two sounds in some cues. 

“Given the large amount of music required and the desire for a minimalistic, sound design-based score, it’s easy to end up in a place that is very textural and drone-y. While I love a good drone, and there is plenty of that mixed in, Mike and I really wanted to make sure there was enough dynamics and variety of sounds so that the movie wasn’t one big drone.”

How many cues did you ultimately write and record?

“I wrote about 65 individual music cues for a total of just under 90 minutes of music, and recorded all the instruments myself, with the exception of a couple of small violin and viola parts that were performed by my friend Harry Risoleo.”

Can you talk about the instrumentation and gear you are using? 

“The main instruments that make up the score are solo strings, some analog synths, warped and processed acoustic sounds, and some ethnic percussion.

“The string instruments play a few melodies here and there, but I was mostly banging and scraping them trying to make the craziest and most violent sounds possible. The high shrieks, stabs and piercing sounds came largely from the violin and viola, and the cello and bass created most of the low ominous tones and deep growls. 

“In terms of synths, I mainly used a Prophet 6, Moog Grandmother and a Soma Lyra 8, as well as a few soft synths and plug-ins, like Slate and Ash’s Cycles. There was this high-pitched, unsettling tone that I made on the Prophet that is scattered throughout. I also took advantage of using one of the Prophet’s alternate tunings to create some very atonal and creepy ‘melodies’ and rhythms. The Grandmother and Lyra 8 were mostly used to create the low bass tones and pulses that I could build a cue around.

“Many of the sounds also came from running sources through guitar pedals and/or some in-the-box processing. For example, I would bang on my piano, run that through a looper pedal, slow it down, add distortion, maybe some spring reverb, and then eventually make a cool low pulse out of that. Or, I would take an intense bass growl and run that through Cycles to stretch it out much longer than realistically possible. 

“And I was constantly sampling the sounds using Logic’s Sampler or Kontakt as I was making them so it would be easier to recall them for future use. Some of the gear involved in this process was a TC Electronic Ditto x4, Knas Ekdahl Moisturizer, Chase Bliss Mood and Warped Vinyl, Earthquaker Devices Avalanche Run, Folktek Resonant Garden, Elektron Analog Drive, Soma Lyra 8, and Slate and Ash Cycles. 

“Lastly, there are plenty of random, minimally-processed sounds that come from sources like a small lap harp, a tagelharpa, deer antlers, a spring reverb tank, a bombo drum, and various sticks and shakers.”