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How music can help filmmakers create fear in their horror scene

The limitations of using normal library music.

Have you ever noticed how scary the music in a horror scene sounds? The correct answer should be, no! For music to be most effective in a horror scene it needs to be very subtle and anything it does needs to be enhancing what the viewer sees on screen. As indie filmmakers, we don’t always have access to composers who can curate precise changes within a soundtrack to match the scene and stock library music is pre-curated in a generic manner which would compromise your edit’s pacing or style. That’s where Filmstro is a miraculous tool that gives you composer-level control over your soundtrack (we know it sounds biased but hear us out). 

We wanted to demonstrate how using music we could subtly enhance the fear a viewer would experience when watching a horror scene. We decided to use a scene out of the 2011 film Grave Encounters. The scene we used had NO music in it. Here’s how we went about using Filmstro to score a horror scene:

  • We checked out the ‘horror’ genre in the Filmstro music library and found a track that fitted the vibe of our video. For us that meant the soundtrack had to sound quite eerie and tense when all the sliders were at the left (to use as a bed) and had to sound deep, grungy, menacing with a sense of urgency when the sliders were at the right. Wreaker was the track for us. 
  • We started off by adjusting the depth slider on our first pass over the scene with all of our other sliders set to the left. This gave us the opportunity to set the bed (and tone) in the scene. As we dragged the sliders to the right, a hissing sound comes in which creates a sense of ‘whispering’. From the audience’s point of view, this can be quite unsettling as they’re hearing something that isn’t visible on the screen and the scene in the film is showing the protagonists looking for someone.
  • We then moved to the end ‘reveal’ section of the scene and decided to work backwards from there. Having injected some power and building in momentum to the end scene helped musically match the visual pace and anticipation the viewer would feel as the camera moves in on the girl stood facing the wall.
  • We then went back to the start and added a bit of power and momentum to the scene that leads to the ‘end’ scene. We only add a small hint of power and momentum to indicate a change in the scene. Upon increasing these two elements, we can hear piano keys, drums and strings kicking in which naturally heighten the feeling of anxiety in the scene.

For a full in-depth insight in to how we scored this horror scene using Filmstro and discovering all the other cool stuff you can do with Filmstro, check out our video above!

If you’d like to try Filmstro for yourself - Download it for free today!