May 27, 2010
Weird News: Using Hunting Calls in Horror Movies
By Chad Love
You know those distressed rabbit predator calls that bring coyotes running but (admit it) sorta creep you out at the same time? According to researchers, there's a reason for that...
From the story in the (UK) Guardian:
Horror film soundtracks mimic animal distress calls. Film-makers' manipulations of sound tap into our primal fears, say researchers
Discordant sounds used to create tension in horror films are effective because they mimic calls made by animals in the wild at times of stress, researchers have found. The "non-linear" sounds, often created by pushing brass and wind instruments beyond their natural range by playing them too hard, exploit the human brain's natural aversion to sonics that signal fear or distress.
Reporting his findings in Royal Society journal Biology Letters, Professor Daniel Blumstein of the University of California, who led the research, said film composers used such sounds to heighten emotionally evocative moments in their movies. "Noise is associated with horror and fear," he told the Daily Telegraph . "Abrupt frequency shifts are associated with sad dramatic scenes. Noise is associated with horror and fear. "I would say it taps into our primal fear, which is shared with other mammals and birds. It scares us, but it also scares other animals."
The researchers examined 30-second clips from more than 100 films, including such celebrated moments as the shower scene in Psycho and the execution scene in The Green Mile. They at first studied four genres ˆ adventure, horror, drama and war ˆ but discovered that the rasping "non-linear" sounds were only to be found on the soundtracks of horror movies, and occasionally dramas. "Our results suggest that film-makers manipulate sounds to create non-linear analogues in order to manipulate emotional responses," the scientists say in their paper.