Sound and Sight: What Makes a Good Horror Movie Better

Hello there, Monster Hunters!

Hey, so first, have you ever wondered what MA1 would sound like as an audiobook? I have, which led me to create a Kickstarter to see if I can’t make that dream a reality. You can find it here (along with a really embarrassing video, you know, if you want a good giggle). If you feel like kicking in a few bucks, I’d really appreciate it! There’s some fun swag for the donors, too!

Speaking of hearing…I was thinking about horror movies for some reason this week. I really have no good excuse, as I stopped watching them in college (an overactive imagination + a couple of amaretto sours + living in an apartment alone = no more scary movies after I freaked out and called my best friend at one in the morning, just convinced there was someone in my apartment). Good times.

Anyway, I digress. So, horror flicks. You know what I think the best ones, the really shiver-down-your-spine chiller/thrillers have that others miss?

The sound of fear.

I’m not talking about screams or slasher sound effects. I mean the real, terrifying sound that says, “I’m not alone,” or “there’s someone I can’t see right behind me.” A squeaky door. A floorboard creaking in an empty house. Shutters flapping in a sudden wind–shutters you were positive that you fastened earlier. The phone ringing shrill in a deep, uneasy quiet. Yeah, the sound of fear.

One of my favorite horror movies is The Sixth Sense. Now, some people don’t classify that one as really scary, and it’s not exactly. But there are some definite “gotcha” moments. The cabinet doors that are suddenly, inexplicably open. The voices on the tape, in a barely there whisper. The music, like in all good horror films, even cooperates. You really want to scare me? Have somebody pop out of the blue, accompanied by a screech of strings. I’ll be clinging to the ceiling, I kid you not.

While developing our craft, writers are told over and over–use all five senses. Don’t forget to describe how something smells, how it tastes, how it sounds. These visceral reminders are what make a scene real, even when it’s on paper. When used in film, sound becomes a powerful trigger. It’s the sound of a knife being sharpened against a stone, of a crunch in the grass that might mean the monster is hunting you, of a trapdoor opening to shed light on your hiding place. It’s haunting…in the best sense.

How about you? Seen any horror movies that use sound to great effect? 

3 comments

  • I had a class entirely on Hitchcock’s work in undergrad. I still have a hard time walking past a power line full of birds that are chattering away. Evil birds. They’re just evil.

  • Not sure what it would sound like. But as I read it I felt like I was right there with matt and will and It would be way cool to make this into a feature movie on the big screen.

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