Christianity and horror films go together like prom queens and pigs blood, and have been arming priests with holy water and crosses since the genre hit the big screen. 2020’s Saint Maud proved that there’s still life in the concept yet, but what about Judaism-inspired horror movies? The Vigil might be the film to tip the balance.
Michael Yezerski is a night owl. So much so, he’s technically a morning owl. There's not many people that would happily volunteer to be interviewed at 1am, but for this composer, it’s the perfect time to catch him.
“I couldn't think of a better time, at least for me! I'm completely nocturnal, naturally. So this just works,” he insists from his home studio in L.A.
The Australian native usually travels back and forth between L.A. and Sydney, but a certain international pandemic has put a stop to that over the last year.
“I've had studios in L.A. and Sydney running almost concurrently, so working from home was no issue. People just seem a little bit perkier behind their masks now. It's hard to describe, but for the first time in a year, I'm feeling optimistic.”
While many composers grew up in musical households, this was not the case for a young Yezerski. His parents are Russian immigrants who were born in China, moving to Sydney in 1950. Setting up in a new country, they were focussed on vocational pursuits when it came to how they made money.
“Then I came along,” he chuckles. “I was incredibly willful, as I seem to recall. I was going after music at any cost. I remember just coming home from music class in early high school, and starting to write something. My mom came in and was like, ‘what are you doing?’ I said, ‘I'm writing music’. It just sort of kept snowballing from there.”
Yezerski is a classically trained composer, studying a formal composition degree at The University of Sydney, then studying audio engineering for a year afterwards. He took to composing film scores “like a duck to water” – his first feature film was The Black Balloon (starring Toni Collette, and winner of eight AFI/AACTA Awards, including Best Picture).
With plenty of experience behind him now, Yezerski brought his signature musical intensity to recent horror film, The Vigil, which follows a young man who is tasked with keeping vigil over a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community, only to be targeted by a malevolent spirit.
It’s fair to say that Yezerski’s haunting score for the festival horror hit stands out as a defining fright-factor in the film (and yes you will find yourself watching from behind a cushion) – but there’s so much more to the film than just scares.