Sound in the American Horror Film

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About the Book

The crack of thunder, a blood-curdling scream, creaking doors, or maybe complete silence. Sounds such as these have helped frighten and startle horror movie audiences for close to a century. Listen to a Universal classic like Dracula or Frankenstein and you will hear a very different soundtrack from contemporary horror films. So how did we get from there to here? What scared audiences then compared to now?
This examination of the horror film’s soundtrack builds on film sound and genre scholarship to demonstrate how horror, perhaps more than any other genre, utilizes sound to manipulate audience response. Beginning with the Universal pictures of the early 1930s and moving through the next nine decades, it explores connections and contrasts throughout the genre’s technical and creative evolution. New enthusiasts or veteran fans of such varied films as The Mummy, Cat People, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Psycho, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, and A Quiet Place will find plenty to explore, and perhaps a new sonic appreciation, within these pages.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Bullins is a sound designer and educator living in Greensboro, North Carolina. He has worked in the sound department for several horror films and has written on various aspects of the genre.

Bibliographic Details

Jeffrey Bullins
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 243
Bibliographic Info: 57 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2024
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9068-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-5197-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1
Introduction 5
1. The Quiet of the Grave 11
2. Wartime Monsters and Creature Features 26
3. Branching Sonic Styles in the 1960s 48
4. The Savage 70s: A Return to Unpolished Realism 71
5. Slashers, Sequels, and Rubber Reality 92
6. Scream and Postmodern Horror 121
7. The Stylistic Excess of Torture Porn 146
8. Waning Realism in Found Footage 161
9. Supernatural Sounds: The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity Franchises 181
10. Silence, Point of Audition, and Shifting Perspectives in A Quiet Place 196
Chapter Notes 209
Bibliography 223
Index 231

Book Reviews & Awards

“The book offers important insights about the way sound—from effects to score to dialogue—functions in specific horror films to create specific effects for viewers, and about the way trends in sound design in American horror change over time.”—Shelly Jarenski, associate professor of literature and author of Immersive Words: Mass Media, Visuality and American Literature, 1839–1893