I am a big fan of horror/thriller films, but after I have seen many different types of horror/thriller films for these years, I have to say the good ones are always rare. One of the factors which define a horror/thriller film as successful is its SFX. The short film Clown Train that I just watched is a good example of the SFX utilize in horror/thriller films.
The film starts with a complete darkness with the sound of train slowing down; some harsh brakes sound from within which I consider was put on in post-production, for making a normal sound more “dangerous” to stick to the movie genre, so that I can almost define its genre as horror/thriller at the very beginning without seeing the image. This is one use of the sounds in horror/thriller films, the sounds are used to evoke the characters feelings and emotions in order to get a response from the audience, and also symbolise the genre.
And then we see the location where the story happens-the train, more specifically, on a carriage. Listen carefully, we hear the humming noise and two low key electronic chords are playing at low volume behind the image, without too much explaining and acting, we knew some thing bad is going to happen to the protagonist. The sound was used as a tool here to manipulate the feeling of audience, by carefully using the sounds employed in the scene it creates the right mood and atmosphere and in the context of the horror/thriller genre, helps to build suspense and tension.
A bass drum kicks when the scary clown shows up; the drum kick simulates the heavy heart beat when people get shocked. The speed of dialogue was intentionally slowed down, but the single low key piano note and tensive beating sounds are still playing softly that reminds the audience: this is just “the calm before the storm”. The stereotypical light flickering sound always makes the situation worse; and following the plot is pushed to the climax: when the clown reveals the biggest suspense to the protagonist and the audience, a synthesized “dangerous” sound gradually plays to high volume, which indicates the protagonist is in an extremely danger. The audience of course, feeling like being in this danger, and just want to run for their life.
Expect the musical instruments and synthesizers that we commonly know, I would like to introduce a special instrument which is invented by Richard Waters. I think the waterphone is probably the best instrument for making the dangerous sound effects for horror/thriller films.