What Went Right With… Joseph Bishara?

A caricature of Joseph Bishara by What Went Wrong Or Right With...? for

Joseph Bishara is a film composer who has scored many contemporary horror movies. Some of these horror films have been low-budget B-movies but regardless of the quality of the picture, Bishara’s score has always been a rose amongst the thorns. In films such as The Vatican Tapes and Dark Skies (which were not great films) the score was brooding nevertheless. His greatest achievement in terms of composing was of course his score for Insidious which featured echoing percussion and strings, dissonance, and sudden crescendos, and all this made for a very eerie soundscape. With Bishara producing sounds on a rusted piano by using various hardware tools including hammers and differently-shaped files, not to mention other “experimental instruments” of his own design, the score for Insidious perfectly conveyed the feeling of being haunted by an ancient evil. Safe to say that as a composer, Bishara has made and still makes some very sinister and unnerving sounds but it’s not just his music that is haunting, for me, his talents go much further than film composing.

Since he is known predominantly as a film composer, the aspect of Bishara’s career that isn’t mentioned often enough is his acting work, which for me is his biggest achievement. Everybody knows that scaring an audience is a challenge; it has of course to do with directing, editing, and sound design among other things, but if you can create a character that is truly spine-chilling or intimidating then half the job of the movie is done. And that brings me to Joseph Bishara’s physical contributions to cinema, as soon as he dons makeup, latex prosthesis, and some contact lenses, Bishara has the ability to transform into some of the most terrifying demons and creatures in contemporary horror cinema. His gaze, his expression, and his personality when he’s playing a frightening character is second to none.

James Wan is the modern day master of horror but it has to be recognised that some of his biggest scares have been thanks to Joseph Bishara who has played the main apparitional antagonist in two of his best films; the Lipstick-Face Demon in Insidious and Bathsheba the witch in The Conjuring. Scenes such as the Lipstick-Face Demon lurking behind Patrick Wilson’s shoulder or Bathsheba floating over Lili Taylor’s face are examples of Bishara’s unnerving and petrifying character work, and this has everything to do with his on-screen persona and his believable transformation into the demonic.

Joseph Bishara's horror film characters from Insidious, The Conjuring, and Annabelle

From left to right: Lipstick-Face Demon from ‘Insidious’, Bathsheba The Witch from ‘The Conjuring’, and The Demon from ‘Annabelle’

On a side note, I note that Bishara is also credited on IMDb as playing “The Demon” in The Conjuring 2 but I’m not sure who that is since actor Bonnie Aarons played the demon nun “Valak” and actor Bob Adrian played the ghost of Bill Wilkins. Since the “Crooked Man” was CGI, I have no idea which character Bishara actually played in this movie. Maybe it’s a mistake on IMDb’s part, maybe it’s something that was subsequently edited out, or maybe I missed a scene, in any case, since Joseph wasn’t the main source of scares in The Conjuring sequel, that’s probably why the movie wasn’t as chilling as the original.

Even when Wan isn’t in the director’s chair, Joseph Bishara’s appearance in a horror film is usually the best and most memorable part. Take The Conjuring spin-off Annabelle for instance; the movie was unfortunately a disappointment but when Bishara played the demon-slash-devil on the stairs which followed Annabelle Wallis from the elevator in the basement, that was the single scene that made your hairs stand on end. Let’s face it, the Demon in Annabelle was the only scary part of that film, so if Bishara can raise a mediocre picture into something chilling and nerve-racking, the talent for terrifying moviegoers must lie with him.

Like I’ve said before, scaring the audience is a difficult thing to do but Joseph Bishara’s personality and devotion to the genre has created some blood-curdling and unforgettable moments in modern horror cinema. With his sinister scores and his completely terrifying acting, he is definitely one of horror’s rising stars. In a time when many horror films are stale and contrived, Bishara has managed to bring back the feeling of genuine terror from the good ol’ days of The Exorcist. Casting directors and studios really need to cast him more often, because every time he’s on screen, Joseph Bishara manages to convey dread and fear better than anyone else working in the genre today.

Conjuring Up Terror.

1 reply »

  1. Joseph Bishara portrayed the Valak demon on its true demonic form at the end of The Conjuring 2 (2016) after spoilers:

    Lorraine sent it back to hell after learning its name.

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