Cult problems

Goth synthwave duo Venetian Veil performed an original score to F.W. Murnau’s horror film Nosferatu at the Red Museum Sunday night, and, uh-oh, I think I’m trapped in a vampire cult now?

Susan Hunt and Jim Willig have been creating music together for nearly 12 years, and they’ve been performing as Venetian Veil since 2011. Both had wanted to score a silent film for a while, but they were having a hard time choosing the right movie to fit their sound.

“We were thinking of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari at first, but there’s kind of some goofy comic relief in it that we were having trouble with,” Willig explained.

Inspired by a depth of aural and cinematic influences including Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and director Panos Cosmatos’ Beyond the Black Rainbow, their music evokes moody, atmospheric vibes that seem to conjure up astral projections and paranormal curiosities. Nosferatu seemed like a perfect fit.

For the screening, everyone was dressed up in their Sunday best: black T-shirts, black jeans. One attendee pulled out a flask and began sipping on what could only have been human blood. Or wine. But probably blood.

When the first image flickered onto the venue’s bare white wall, I was immediately reminded of how gorgeous this film is. Every shot is lit and composed with such immaculate detail to reflect the mood of its scene. A tale about evil’s infectious nature, Nosferatu relies on German expressionist techniques like atmospheric lighting and exaggerated shadows to communicate its dark, twisted themes. Just from a visual perspective, the film is a work of art.

And the music? Otherworldly. Harboring echoes of Popol Vuh’s score for the 1979 version (Nosferatu the Vampyre) as well as original sounds and improvisation, Venetian Veil’s live performance was not supplemental, but essential to experiencing the film’s dramatic tension. The combination of guitar strums and synths swelling and contracting to the rhythm of the unfolding narrative resulted in an eerie, lulling sensation. I actually caught myself falling into a trance, and while I’m pretty sure only a few seconds had passed, it’s also completely possible that it was long enough for someone to bite my neck and suck out most of my life juices. So I might be trapped in a vampire cult now.

As the last title card popped onscreen and the dark ambiance faded into silence, the audience broke out into applause. Performing music to a 94-minute-long film is no easy feat. You know what else is no easy feat? Escaping a vampire cult you may have been tricked into joining.

Despite the amount of work that went into scoring Nosferatu, Venetian Veil is certainly interested in doing similar projects in the future.

“So far we’ve been thinking about already existing silent movies, but it would be fun to score a movie that didn’t exist,” Hunt said.

Willig also seemed excited about the idea. “I would love for a filmmaker to come to us, that would be killer. Panos Cosmatos, if you’re reading this, call me bro!

Also, Panos Cosmatos, if you’re reading this, do you have any tips on leaving a vampire cult? Just curious.