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Top 10 most frightening sounds in movies

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The sound of terror can summon worse demons than the image...

Top 10 most frightening sounds in movies

The horror of a truly terrifying sound-effect is contextual: a brilliantly-executed effect can be killed by poor placement, whereas the most mundane noise can send shivers up the spine with the right counterpoint...

10: Jurassic Park III (2001) - It's for you

Is that yours? It's not mine. Oh shit...

Phone calls can come at the most inconvenient moments, but they're rarely quite as unwelcome as in this scene from Joe Johnston's sequel to the 1993 Spielberg classic. The true terror of this moment is similar to that of The Innocents, in that the ring-tone reveals something awful that has been looking at you for a long time, and wondering what its next course of action should be. It's the sheer mundanity of the sound that succeeds in doubling the shock value, as we realise that the Spinosaurus is having his lunch repeat on him in the most disturbing way...

9: The Entity (1982) - Welcome home

The Entity (1982)

Sidney J. Furie's fictionalised tale of a case of 'sexual possession' has a number of notable shock moments, but none quite so effective as in the last four minutes of the movie. Having battled with an evil incubus for a soul-destroying two hours, poor Barbara Hershey deserves a better ending than she gets from the abusive apparition, who, upon her return to the home that it has ravaged in every way possible, declares in a terrifying bass drawl: Welcome home, c***.


8: Star Wars (1977) - Where's my inhaler?

Darth Vader!

George Lucas's seminal re-visit to the 1930s Saturday morning serials drew from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey in many (well acknowledged) ways, from the development of Doug Trumbull's rudimentary motion control rig to the clinical aspect of the Corellian ship that Lord Vader's Star Destroyer captures and boards at the movie's start. But there's no tribute quite as obvious or innovative as the sequestering of 2001's trademark respiration sound (used in the EVA scenes) for the emphysematic audio signature of the Sith lord...

7: The Shining (1980) - Vocal effect in main title

The Shining (1980)

Composers Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind came up with astonishing vocalisations for Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's novel of possession and cabin-fever. There's a Grudge-style ratchety-groan in the soundtrack's title theme that, in the final movie, was moved to a later point in the film, but the theme itself is in any case a hymn to damnation to rival the darkest imaginings of Diamonda Galas (and if she doesn't own the soundtrack, I'll buy a hat and eat it). About the 2.37 mark in the clip below comes a segment that turned my blood to ice when I heard a radio ad for the movie in the dismal winter of 1980...

6: Alien: Resurrection (1997) - Now I'm pissed

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

I admit that I'm easy meat for any xenomorph outings, bar the ones with predators in them. But I wasn't expecting the sound engineers in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's sequel to the 1979 Ridley Scott classic to depart quite so radically from the sibilant sound effects of the three previous movies; so when the 'alien' gets pissed off at tinkering scientist Brad Dourif for his control-freakery, the 'lion'-based roar scared the hell out of me...



 

Comments 

 
#1 Kayako Caleb Leland 2011-01-04 17:44
It took me weeks before I could hear that sound without wanting to run in terror. Even now, it sends shivers up my spine. Chilling.
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#2 Not Good khan 2011-03-13 19:58
I'm sorry - I wasn't impressed. Where was the sound of Freddy Krueger scraping the walls of the boiler room with his talons in 'Nightmare on Elm Street' Part One? Or The alien hunter in 'Predator' mimicking the dialogue of his victims with recorded soundbites - specifically the words 'anytime' - whispered just before he makes himself visible to Mac and making him realize that he is the hunted, not the hunter-or the character Billy's 'laughter' in the woods? But by far the most obvious omission was the sound of horrible howling in the woods during the opening scene of 'American Werewolf In London' on the moors with the two yank tourists failing to outrun the rapidly nearing growls, made by something NOt quite animal...
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#3 my choice... Mike.E. 2011-04-09 13:52
one of the sounds I remember most strongly as having terrified me was the sound the tripods made in Spielberg's remake of War of the Worlds.

I know the film gets trashed by many people, but that sound... I had nightmares about it for weeks after seeing that film.
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#4 My Choice... Jeremy 2011-05-30 20:02
This is a bit different genre from the other films on this list, but special mention must be made of the "scream in the woods" from "Stand By Me." Still to this day, the most eerie, spooky and outright terrifying sounds. If I think about it now, even at my age, I have to reach for the light switch!! If you don't believe me, rewatch the movie and see if that scene doesn't make you shiver.
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#5 THE THING Marty 2011-08-20 05:50
Two scenes come straight to mind with THE THING (1982):
1. The power goes out in the station as Fuchs is working at his desk. He gets up, lights a candle and steps by the door...just as 'someone' walks by him and there is this electronic 'gutter/snarl'! It is repeated in the scene where the 'Blair'-thing suddenly appears behind Garry right before he attacks him. To this day, those two scenes and that horrid sound set my hair and teeth on edge WITHOUT FAIL!!
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#6 Sirens Dave 2011-10-04 08:12
By far the creepiest sound to me is the sirens from Silent Hill....I get goosebumps everytime I hear my local tornado sirens go off!
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#7 great, but you forgot... DeeDee 2011-11-29 01:30
...the sound of the flash/camera (if that's what it is, if you've seen the movie you know EXACTLY which one) at the start of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I can't even type it phoeneticly (sp) but the sound every time the flash goes off taking photos of that decayed corpse that someone dug up and wired to a cross in the graveyard. EEEEEEK. And yeah, John Carpenter's The Thing, there are two that make my hair stand on end EVERY viewing (over 25 since my dad took me to see it in the theater on first run)which is the mewling snarl/whine of the dog-thing in the kennel, and the horrifying, unearthly sound the Bennings-thing makes when they chase it out into the snow, before they sit it on fire.

I'm going to go turn all the lights in the house on now.
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#8 RE Sounds Brian 2012-10-22 20:05
The scream uttered by the alien replicants in the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, particularly the one screamed by Donald Sutherland near the end showing that he'd been replicated. Also, from the Thing Carpenter remake, the roar of the alien monster when we see it for the first time in all its glory in the dog pen.
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