Unsettling Background Noise YKTTW Discussion

Unsettling Background Noise
What interesting BGM- was that the sound of puppies cringing?
(permanent link) added: 2011-04-20 15:19:02 sponsor: Generality (last reply: 2011-08-27 05:17:15)

Add Tag:
So, you want to create a disturbing soundscape for a horror work that will properly unnerve the audience? Well, you could take the obvious route and put in dissonant chords, inhumanly deep organ music and Ominous Latin Chanting. Or you could try something more subtle.

Certain distressing sounds, most often screams, sobs, and creepy laughter, played near the threshold of hearing, can subconciously set the audience on edge, making them feel that something is wrong, even if they can't place the source. To partially mask the noise, it will often be covered by loud background music of a more benign nature.

The sound can become a Meaningful Background Event if it is diegetic, having an actual source somewhere in the story. Similarly, Fridge Horror can result if an ordinary noise results from a something scary.

Sub-Trope of Hell Is That Noise.


  • The Joker's theme in The Dark Knight is no more than a few violin strings being tortured for several minutes. It can be generally unsettling before it reaches the volume level that it resembles music.
  • Milla's mental space in Psychonauts is a huge dance club, with appropriately catchy music... except for the insistent whispering audible in the upper areas. You can find Milla's Nightmare Room where the sound originates, and it's even creepier.
  • The Diablo games do this to a limited extent, mostly in levels set in Hell, where you can hear the wailing of the damned. Creepy laughs and other, unplaceable sounds can be heard in other areas.
    • The only problem is, there wasn't any dissonance between the creepy music in a creepy setting fighting creepy monsters as a creepy necromancer, and the creepy "EEE!" in the Background music that was supposed to make you jump.
  • The Asylum in Shadowman is full of this. One area even mixes up the sounds of children crying, dental drills whirring, and dogs barking, to make the player wonder just what the hell goes on here.
Replies: 24