Scare chords


Photo illustration by Korbl Klimecki

Alisha Kirby and Alisha Kirby

It’s that time of year: The leaves should be turning orange, red and yellow, but they won’t for another month because it’s October in California. People are posting pictures of their best jack-o-lanterns on Instagram, and every scary movie that’s been released in the last 100 years is getting a makeover so that we may spend $10 to watch something in theaters we already watched on Netflix last Halloween.

For example, the third film adaptation of Stephen King’s novel “Carrie” was released Oct. 18, and has received some fairly positive reviews from critics and students.

“I’m not a fan of scary type movies at all and I never saw the original, but I really enjoyed it,” said psychology major Jayde Yates. “I wasn’t expecting to like it, but it was really well done.”

Despite having not seen the original (or first remake), you know what’s going to happen from the previews. Spoiler alert: The prom goes poorly and Carrie goes on a rampage. But the plot itself isn’t what keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s the soundtrack.

“An example of how crucial sound is would be Alfred Hitchcock and ‘Psycho,’” said Professor Pamela Downs, who teaches a class on horror films. “He (Hitchcock) had to produce it so he had to come up with the money himself. He was paying all of the actors under scale, but he paid Bernard Herrmann, who was the outstanding Hollywood composer at the time, full going rate because he knew it was crucial.”

Think about every scary movie you’ve watched. Sure, the special effects were cool, but were they what gave you goosebumps? Or was it a pulsing cello and a sudden screech that made you spill your popcorn as you curled up in your seat and covered your eyes?

“I am very much a fan of horror films,” said music major Jarom Horner.

His favorite scene is from “The Shining,” when Jack Nicholson breaks in through the bathroom door with an axe and shouts “Here’s Johnny!” “I will never forget the ear piercing nails on a chalkboard and ‘hive of bees sounding’ violins,” Horner said.

“Part of it has to do with the fact that we’re dealing with suspense,” said Downs. “In every melodrama you use sound for mood, suspense and build. In horror it’s even more so.”

The moral of the story is this: If you’re going to watch a scary movie this Halloween, turn up the volume. Otherwise you’re doing yourself a disservice.