Cinematographer Lyn Moncrief and composer Jay Wadley helped director Emma Tammi deliver the psychological horror elements in Hulu’s “Into the Dark: Blood Moon,” the story of a young mother named Esme (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and her 7-year-old son, Luna (Yonas Kibreab), who have moved to a small town in the desert.
To her new neighbors, Esme seems to be a fiercely overprotective mother. What they don’t know is that she’s hiding a secret tied to the lunar cycle. The film is the March installment — and season finale — of the Blumhouse TV-produced “Into the Dark” anthology series, which aims to debut a horror film each month.
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Moncrief, working with Tammi for the first time, noticed a common theme throughout her films, including “The Wind” and “Fair Chase”: The protagonists were trapped or limited in some way. One of the first discussions he had with the director was how to reflect that in “Blood Moon.” The DP looked for features to shoot through on location, such as the frame of swings on a playground as Esme is watching Luna, “to show that they’re caught in a cage.”
Moncrief used mother-and-son drives into town in her truck to depict Luna’s confinement. The boy is framed lower than the window and can barely see out. Shots from his perspective were designed to physically and emotionally remove him from his surroundings. “Everything, including the playground, is shown through a reflection of his face in the window,” says the DP.
Moncrief’s experience with his 7-year-old daughter during the pandemic helped him navigate the idea of parental guilt, an underlying theme in the film. “Something bad is going to be there, but we don’t know what it is,” he says. Moncrief kept his camera at Kibreab’s height to create anxiety.
Composer Wadley, meanwhile, focused on the movie’s supernatural aspects, and strove to create a sound that considered the moon and nature. His score starts with the stark voice of a bowed banjo, to represent the desert community. “But there’s a shrillness and sharpness, and a melancholy sadness,” he adds.
The key instrument, however, was one that was more familiar — and more versatile. “The flute was a big part of the nature aspect because it can sound like nature and it’s hard to place,” Wadley says. “You can’t identify if it’s a bird or an animal.”
The composer also disguised the sound. “I recorded it at 5.1 [surround sound] and at a high sample rate so I could slow it down,” he says. Once he had what he wanted, he could manipulate it, stretching out the playback and lowering it by a few octaves. In the edit, he aimed to make sure it all sounded “organic but strange.”
As Luna feels the gravitational pull of the moon getting stronger, Wadley resorts to organic synths to represent tides and waves.
As things progress further, he adds a guitar to lean into the danger — a menace that is unavoidable in maintaining the family unit. “Ultimately,” he says, “this is about a woman who is trying to take care of her son and protect him.”