Sounds of horror: what makes music spooky?

Updated October 2023

Do you ever find yourself hiding behind a pillow when watching a scary movie? Is it the music? Film composers sometimes use generated sounds, including creepy vocals and sounds that mimic human fear like a heartbeat, to build the tension. They also incorporate obscure instruments to create some of the creepiest sounds.

As we head towards Halloween, we thought we’d take a look at what gives scary music the fear factor.

If we took the music out of scary movies, would we still get scared? Scary music builds up suspense, keeps us on edge and gives us that spooky feeling. Take a look at this parody of The Shining trailer with happy up-beat music over the top - is it still scary? Or how about this trailer of Toy Story with scary music in the background. It’s interesting to see just how much music affects how we react to movies.
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