Composer Timothy Stuart Jones has accomplished a lot across his 25+ years in film and television, from indie projects, hit action-comedies to tentpole blockbusters. I spoke to him about his latest in the psychological thriller Hide and Seek, based on the 2013 South Korean film of the same name. It follows a wealthy businessman (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who follows a lead to find his missing brother. He dives headlong into a twisted underworld of squatters and vagrants that threaten to tear apart his family as he struggles to maintain his sanity.
"I worked on a TV show for about five years called Chuck and the director Joel David Moore is a good friend of Zachary Levi, who was the lead in the show," Jones said. "I crossed paths with Joel. I think it may have been a party. I couldn't remember. When I saw that he was doing the film, I think my manager reached out to him, and we already sort of had a bit of a rapport, and it seemed like a good fit, not to mention the film was very interesting to me." While he saw the original Korean film, he had ideas on putting his own stamp on Moore's adaptation.
"I think we definitely kind of wanted to strike out in our own direction," Jones said. "I think that the films have so much story in common. Some elements needed to occur, like we kind of needed a little bit of a childlike-kind of a lullaby thing that I used at different places in the score. I think they may have had something like that in the original, but I think that was really more just a function of how it had to serve the story. Joel said that he was really looking for something kind of sharp, something that had some teeth, and it was a very grimy world that our lead character is going into trying to find his brother. He kind of wanted some music that could sit beside the visuals and really give it some more depth because it was shot well." The composer says the near-finished cut of Hide and Seek reminded him of another iconic 90s thriller.
"Joel's visual style almost sort of reminded me of like David Fincher in the Seven era," Jones said. "The sets kind of make your skin crawl like you need to take a shower after you finish watching it. I really wanted the music to have a kind of visceral feel to it. I used a lot of as many acoustic instruments or acoustic sound sources as I could to make that happen so that it felt like a lot of bold things. I use this hammer dulcimer, and I put some contract microphones on it, and then I ran that through a looper that created these sort of evolving textures, and then I could stack things on top of it. It was kind of neat, and it ended up being a good tool for the score." He admits there is a bit of micromanaging between climactic scenes.
"I think one of the overriding things was that Joel wasn't afraid to let me get big with this thing in spots, and so there are definitely some jump scares, which would be kind of much more in the horror genre," Jones said. "Then there's other stuff that's really more atmospheric, and it's kind of a general sense of dread that the music is kind of helping push along. So honestly, I'd say it's a bit of a mixture of both, but when it really gets going there in the last reel or so, the music gets pretty big. I wanted it to feel like you could really feel it in your stomach. I have this sort of sound for the antagonist. It's kind of this falling brass bass sound that just sort of feels like your stomach drops out on a roller coaster. I just wanted something that when you hear it, you're like, 'Uh oh! The guy's around or whatever. So that was one of the techniques I wanted to use, but I think honestly, it's a pretty good mixture of both." While he was ultimately pleased with how his score turned out, plans changed as the pandemic hit.
"I think we probably had the most challenge with the ending of the film because there's just so much going on," Jones said., "It was a point where I wanted to bring some different themes that I had been working with altogether for this reveal at the end that the music kind of helps you realize who it is you're looking at for the antagonist. It kind of brings all those threads together at the very end was a challenge because we were also trying to balance how big are we going to going to go with this music and where do we need to pull back? I mean, we actually had to go back into the film about a year or so after I was done. They reopened it, and I had to go in and back down some of the score that we had done. It was a little too bold. The Korean production company just didn't have the same sensibility about it. So the stuff that Joel and I had done, I had to back it down a little bit. So it is disappointing, but I learned a great lesson that film is actually a collaborative medium. I mean, who knew that?" Saban Films' Hide and Seek, which also stars Joe Pantoliano, Jacinda Barrett, and Mustafa Shakir is currently in theaters.