It takes a lot to make a great horror film: creative makeup, realistic special effects, tight close ups, and passable acting. But great sound also plays a massive role in scary movies.
Sonic moments are some of the most memorable parts of classic horror flicks: For example, would The Blair Witch Project be remembered as fondly without the panicked hyperventilating of a lone camera woman telling us how scared she is? Or would John Carpenter's Halloween franchise scare us as much without the creepy score he wrote for the films?
We wanted to dive a little deeper into frightening sounds in the film industry, so we brought in Kristin Meinzer and Rafer Guzman, co-hosts of The Takeaway’s Movie Date podcast, for some of their favorite scary movie audio.
Kristen Meinzer, on creepy children and “Carol Ann’s Theme” from Poltergeist:
Children are so creepy. They have those high, kind of screechy voices that are out of control. Who knows where those voices are going? And then the kids are so easily possessed by evil. You can possess a kid no matter what you do. In The Omen, in The Exorcist — just possess a kid. And then finally, they look so small and innocent…. That innocence can belie the truth, which is: They can get away with murder if they want to.
Rafer Guzman, on David Lynch’s use of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet:
Kyle MacLachlan and Isabella Rossellini have just been caught by Dennis Hopper, who plays her psychotic, monstrous lover/tormenter. And of course, as people like that do, he decides to take them to a “party,” where the evening’s entertainment is Dean Stockwell in this weird drag 60’s lounge singer costume. And he’s going to do a karaoke version of “In Dreams” singing into a lamplight. And I just find it a completely horrifying, dreadful scene.
Kristen Meinzer, on the Oscar-winning soundtrack to The Omen:
It’s so creepy. And that scene, if you watch it without the music — let’s say you put on a song by the Beatles over that — it’s really just a priest running through the churchyard while there’s a windstorm. But if you put that music on, it’s not a churchyard anymore. It’s a scary, hellish place, suddenly. I don’t even know what those voices are saying, but they’re terrifying, whatever they’re saying. It’s totally scary.