Italian horror maestro Fabio Frizzi talks about his tribute to ‘The Beyond’ director Lucio Fulci

Fabio Frizzi, the legendary Italian composer, will perform his score from horror classic "The Beyond" at the Coolidge this weekend.
Fabio Frizzi, the legendary Italian composer, will perform his score from horror classic "The Beyond" at the Coolidge this weekend.Courtesy Fabio Frizzi

Horror-movie composer Fabio Frizzi is best known for his collaborations throughout the ’70s and ’80s with the Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci. Together, the pair created some uncommonly atmospheric works of escalating terror, from “Zombi 2″ (1979) to ”City of the Living Dead″ (1980). On both, Frizzi’s scores heightened the horror of melting faces and popping eyeballs with their uneasy synths and malevolent ambience.

The pair’s crowning achievement, though, is “The Beyond” (1981). Hypnotic and surreal, it’s a fever dream of a film, and Frizzi’s nightmarish score helped to secure its vision of a gateway to hell as a genre classic. The composer, flanked by a full band, will perform its score live this Sunday, at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline.


Following the 9 p.m. screening, Frizzi will honor the late Fulci in an audiovisual concert, scenes from the duo’s movies playing overhead as Frizzi performs their scores. Ahead of “Frizzi 2 Fulci,” the composer spoke to the Globe about his relationship with the director.

Q. Playing your horror scores in front of live audiences must be such a unique experience. What led you to start performing live?

A. The life of an artist is most beautiful when it is multifaceted — when opportunities and projects always offer new motivations. For a resident of recording studios like me, the idea of being in direct contact with the public has always been desirable. The occasion [to perform scores live] came when I realized that Italian genre cinema — and in particular some directors like Fulci — still had a great appeal to fans all over the world, and that my music was very much appreciated by them.

Q. How did you first meet Lucio Fulci, and what do you remember of collaborating with him?

A. The meeting occasion was the film “Four of the Apocalypse" (1975). ... But then, little by little, Lucio became a real point of reference for a young composer, like I was then. First with my trio Bixio, Frizzi & Tempera, then as a soloist, that collaboration progressed for 15 years. The recipe was simple: an experienced director, in love with his work, was able to light the way for me. Even today, that experience is the root of my relationship with film music. With time, although he was definitely older than me, a beautiful friendship was born also, on a personal level.


Q. How did your personality match with Fulci’s, and what was most challenging about that partnership?

A. I have always said it: He was not an easy person to work with, but often his ironic and funny side had a pleasant prevalence. I think Lucio appreciated the way I approached his work. He was able to get the best out of me. It was a time when I was still consolidating my professional approach and my style was, we can say, growing. He had the ability to stimulate my enthusiasm and push me to [pursue] new ideas and solutions.

Q. You have scored some of the most influential Italian horror movies, like “Zombi 2″ (1979) and “Seven Notes in Black” (1977). What, to you, makes a score sound truly scary?

A. The elements of the human soul are many, often unexplored. I have always thought that aspects like melancholy are present in each of us and are sometimes the entrance, the door, to our anxieties and fears. I’ve always preferred to re-create these feelings rather than resort to exaggerated effects. Then, each film makes a story for itself. I think it’s important to trigger your instincts then go into battle [with them].


Q. Italian horror cinema seems to be having a cultural moment, especially with the popularity of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” (1977), recently remade by Luca Guadagnino. Why do you think people are now rediscovering classic giallo films?

A. It’s a question that I asked myself very often. Probably because the United States now understands the desire and allure of classic Italian cinema, its rich attention to craftsmanship and detail.

Q. Can you tell me about making “composer’s cuts” of movies, and what that process is like? What is a dream project you have not yet completed?

A. It’s simple, but the road is long. Having the idea of bringing “The Beyond” into a live show, I had to expand and in a certain sense reread the old project. So, it is loyalty to the original — with some good new ideas. An example: the famous spider scene, in my opinion, did not have its well-deserved musical moment. In the composer’s cut, this has been revised, and the evolution and the dynamics [between the scene and its score] are much stronger. As for dream projects? There are many, but sometimes I feel like I’m already living in a dream.


Isaac Feldberg can be reached at isaac.feldberg@globe.com, or on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.