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Suspense Thrillers are a little bit about the visual, and a lot a bit about the audio.

What is your favorite mix and/or sound design in a suspense thriller movie? What really drew you in about it? Was it more music based sound design or effect based? What about the sound helped create the suspense?

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5 Answers

Aha! Awesome question, i actually did an essay about the use of silence in thriller/horror. I'll list a few of the ones i loved, with specific uses of sound that stood out:

Dans ma Peau (Marina de Van) - About a woman who develops an obsession with mutilating/eating her skin. The skin specific foley makes it unbearable at times. It may not be to everyone's taste, but the fact that it evokes such affect is impressive.

Cure (Kyoshi Kurosawa) - Japanese police serial killer film. In one scene, while the killer is hypnotising a victim by speaking softly as she watches water trickle along the floor, the soundtrack goes completely dead once he stops talking. No ambience, literally nothing. It's very unsettling.

Alien (Ridley Scott) - The scene where Brett is killed by the Alien has a great buildup. Lots of "synonyms of silence" (small detail sounds, eg. lightly clinking chains, water dripping) lull the audience before the shock is delivered.

The sound department can really flourish in these films because of sound's ability to affect us on a base, instinctual level.

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Both from Se7en:

  • When the police discover the "john" who had been forced to wear the razor (clear throat) with the prostitute (thus fulfilling the "lust" sin). The way the club music builds and climaxes with the man screaming. Brilliant execution.
  • Silence as Pitt and Freeman search the killer's apartment complex only to be shattered by a completely unexpected gunshot from down a flight of stairs, exploding in a burst of wood debris. Shockingly awesome in its simplicity.

And from Jaws:

  • When ol' Ben Gardner's head comes rolling down to the hole in the hull of the boat. SILENCE AS A HORROR ELEMENT.
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Silent Hill, the first one. (Okay, it's not a movie, but hear me out)

In the elementary school, there are ghost children that don't hurt you, but they made your radio go off. They also walk through walls and objects, and follow you. I probably wasted more time avoiding those completely harmless ghosts than ANY other monster in the game, all because they set off my radio, and I couldn't seem to kill them.

It wasn't until my second play through that I realized they couldn't hurt me.

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Well I just had a browse through my DVD collection and realised I am clearly not a fan of the genre. May just have to start a new thread for sci-fi and/or horror.

That said I personally thing Panic Room is a great film with some truly excellent sound from Ren Klyce. I've been a fan of Fincher and Klyce ever since I saw Se7en. A pair of filmmakers made for each other.

The atmosphere in the house, along with the best "something happening in another room" sound. Must watch the sledgehammer scene again, a wonderful thump.

Another DVD worth getting as there's a really interesting doc on Klyce's work.

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Panic Room is really good.
Its not technically a suspense thriller or the BEST moment but the lightsaber fight between Luke and Darth Vadar always kinda chills me - just the ominous ambience, vadar breaths and constant tone of the sabars followed by a quick, sharp intense sabar clash and back again - you can just feel the family tension!!

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