Saturday, 5 October 2013

30 Days of Horror | Day 5

Excellent Use of Sound Effects
The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock is responsible for perhaps one of, if not the, most iconic and recognisable sound effects ever used in a horror film; a repetitive high-pitched screeching which pierces the viewers ears as Norman Bates repeatedly stabs Marion Crane to death in Psycho

As iconic and effective as that sound-bite is, it was Hitchcock's next film, The Birds, which truly displayed the auteurs understanding of sound design in film. The Birds has no soundtrack, no music that plays over the films events to set a tone or steer the audience to the desired emotional state. Instead the director plays with silence, the suspense that can be induced by it and the instant terror that will occur when it is broken suddenly. 

When the antagonist of a horror film is a flock of birds, you have to do something pretty spectacular to sell them as a convincing threat, because they are an animal that we encounter everyday and rarely take seriously. While the film features some wonderfully sinister images and scenes that display the horror the birds are capable of causing, it is the harsh sound of the birds 'caws' that consistently create a sense of dread no orchestral score could produce. Just listen to those hundred or so cries and tell me that you wouldn't be freaked out. 

Other examples of brilliant sound effects in this film are the constant loud thuds of birds trying to attack the house, and the films final attack where Melanie makes her way to the attic of the house in silence, only to be engulfed in a flock; the combination of their flapping wings and her pathetic cries making the scene an incredibly difficult watch. Some of the films visual effects may not have aged that well but the sound design creeps me out just as much with every re-watch. 

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