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Lurking in Silence
by James Shafie

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I've mentioned this movie a lot.  You should watch it.

I've mentioned this movie a lot. You should watch it.
When watching a foreign film, what do you prefer: all the dialogue dubbed over in your language, or subtitled? I prefer the original language to be heard, with subtitles to be read. I feel that even though I don't understand what the characters are saying through their language, the sound of their words is as important as the words themselves. There is a large difference between, "They took Becky to the mall." and "THEY TOOK BECKY TO THE MALL?!" eh? Poor Becky, she does lead a tumultuous life.

Sound in contemporary film is very significant in conveying mood, themes, progression of story and much else. During the silent film era, actors would have to convey emotions by exaggerating facial expressions. Watch a Chaplin short and look at the antagonist's face. He'll probably look like he just had a colonoscopy with a cactus most of the time. With the addition of sound, actors could actually have subtlety in their repertoire.

It seems that within the horror genre, sound is utilized more as a tool to incite the audience to reaction than the other genres. Creaks, whispers and gusts all can have the audience on the metaphorical edge, waiting for the inevitable scary thing make them poop their metaphorical pants. We've all been in situations where after we've watched a horror flick, we look around the whole night, searching for the monster we're SURE we heard behind us.

The music of a horror film also is important. Is the score brooding and ominous, or maybe the soundtrack is full of harsh, dark music, jagging into scenes and making the audiences skin crawl. THE THING'S score is a wonderful achievement of horror film music. Slow and throbbing, the score flows along, adding to the eeriness of the film.

In the remake of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, there is a noise in the trailer that can only be described as a squeaky porch door mixed with demon screeches. I have no idea what it is, or how it was created, but that sound is chilling. Harsh noises in film can make the viewer afraid without any external help. The sound of loud static, gurgling, and scratching of nails against metal are all sure signs something terrible is about to occur. Foreshadowing with sound is a bit trickier to do instead of using visual cues, but as effective.

Also since it is popular in horror flicks to immerse scenes in complete darkness, sound is all you have to go on sometimes. With those scenes, it's almost like your right there with the character, trying desperately to find a light of any kind. Trying so very hard to keep away from that awful noise in the distance. The noise that sounds like teeth gnawing on bone.

And of course, sometimes the worst thing to hear is silence. Hearing nothing just fills the viewer with anxiety. They have no idea what to expect. A scene that is too quiet makes us want the character to run into a trash can or cough or something! Because if silence is all there is, then all we can think about is what will break it.

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The Lair of the Mad
Every other Tuesday

'The Lair' discusses the many aspects and qualities of the horror genre. From actors, to make-up, to music, James Shafie explores everything the "cult" genre spews up.

Other Columns
Other columns by James Shafie:

Speaking Out

Yearn For Change

Queen of Night

Too Close Enough To Touch

The Time of the Beasts

All Columns

James Shafie
James Shafie is an avid watcher of movies of all sorts, but the horror genre is closest to his heart. He loves to read and is addicted to music, mostly metal and itís thousands of sub-genres. He was once fired by Blockbuster, which we see as a strong character trait.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to James Shafie by clicking here.

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