Now You Hear Me, Now You Don’t

Sound Design in Horror Movies

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Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

The ambiance during the watching of a horror movie makes one jump, gasp and even scream in fright. The culprit of such reactions isn’t the actors or gory scenes, it’s sound.

Isaiah Prophet, Reporter

The movie industry has come a long way from the silent films of the 1900s. Sound has always been an integral part of the horror genre. Sound is what creates ambiance and sets the mood for each scene, and it’s especially important in scenes such as jumpscares. But it isn’t as simple as just pressing a few creepy sounding keys on a keyboard, or as easy as hiring some orchestra. 

According to Electronic Music Collective, many sounds such as glass breaking or even closing a door are recorded in a separate studio and then added back in later. In these sound studios, sound directors use vegetables, pots and pans, buckets, and other materials in order to make custom sound effects. In the case of “The Quiet Place” celery was used in order to create custom sound effects for the monsters in the film.

“One shot” is a term used to refer to a special sound that signifies an important point in the movie; such as when the protagonist meets eyes with the monster for a split second according to Electronic Music Collective. Stephen King’s “IT” is another great example as according to izotope sound was used to build tension in each scene in order to convey true horror. 

Throughout history, various instruments have been used to create the signature sound we associate horror characters with. In the 1970s and 1980s synthesizers were used to create the now-iconic sounds for movies such as “Friday the 13th” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street” according to Kadenze. It has even been found that infrasounds (sounds below 20 Hz) that are often caused by natural disasters, can trigger fear in our brains due to the way we are wired. So the next time you see a horror movie listen carefully you might just hear something.