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Ominous Latin Chanting / Live-Action Films

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Ominous Latin Chanting in live-action movies.

  • This trope (usually substituting another language for Latin, though) shows up in a number of Bollywood films, including — but not nearly limited to — Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham, and Main Hoon Na.
  • Any Genghis Khan related movie and the occasional Hun-themed flick will have the Mongolian form of this trope, traditional Tuvan throat singing accompanied by a warlike drum track. Not to mention the fact that spoken Mongol is probably one of the most ominous-sounding languages in existence.
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  • Verdi's "Dies Irae" is the main opening theme to the Battle Royale film. It also sees play during the attack of the Regulators (the forerunners of The Klan) in Django Unchained.
  • Artists X-Ray Dog and Globus and others specialize in music for film and trailers, often featuring a lot of this chanting.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey features, as the monolith music, Ligeti's Requiem mass. The lyrics are from a familiar Greek prayer ("Kýrie, eléison; Christé, eléison; Kýrie, eléison"), repeated in a loop — except each syllable is dragged a lot, and the different vocal ensembles don't sing together, adding to the confusion. His composition "Lux Aeterna" also appears, as the background music during Heywood Floyd's trip to the moon. It's not as ominous, though.
  • Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky is perhaps the original instance. The Teutonic Knights are accompanied by an ominous Latin chorus, which rises in a crescendo during the battle scene. This made sense because the Teutons were evil Catholics fighting the goodguy Eastern Orthodox Russians in the highly propagandistic film. Prokofiev's film music for this sounds similar enough to "O Fortuna" that it may have inspired the use of Orff's Carmina Burana in movies. (The Orff piece was written earlier — by one year.) The chanted words: "Peregrinus expectavi pedes meos in cymbalis" themselves are snipped from Stravinsky's A Symphony of Psalms. Prokofiev, however, evidently realized no-one in the audiences would know Latin, because the words are randomly chosen from the Psalms, and mean, when read as one sentence: "I as a stranger awaited my feet on cymbals"
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  • In the opening tune, and during the climactic battle in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the enchanted armour sing the words of the 'substitutiary locomotion' spell that is animating them ("Treguna mekoides trecorum satis dee"). The effect is actually quite chilling.
  • The Boondock Saints uses this trope throughout the movie, sometimes backed up with techno. The most pronounced is during the Il Duce firefight, which is accompanied by the same chanting that opened the movie.
  • The main title theme for the Francis Ford Coppola film Bram Stoker's Dracula features a chorus whispering and hissing on pitch in both Latin and Romanian.
  • Broken Arrow (1996) has a brief chanting of "Agnus Dei" when Hale finds himself stranded in the Utah desert.
  • In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, during the massive battle there is ominous chanting.
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  • The Conan the Barbarian films heavily featured dramatic Latin music — despite there being no Latin in Cimmeria. See for example "Riders of Doom" (~1:37).
  • Dagon had Ominous Latin Chanting, except of course instead of Latin, the phrase "Iä! Iä! Cthulhu Fhtagn" was chanted.
  • Used in The Dark Knight Trilogy. Hans Zimmer put a link out that allowed anyone to record themselves doing the chanting he used in The Dark Knight Rises. The Arabic phrase used as the chant, Deshi Basara, translates as "he rises" and is very thematically important. It's also used in-universe as a chant in Bane's prison when someone tries to make the climb to escape.
  • In the finale to Dead Again, the three-way battle between Frankie, Mike, and Grace is backed by this chanting.
  • Spoofed in Deadpool 2 with Juggernaut's theme. It has the same tone as a traditional Ominous Latin Chant, but the lyrics are in English and it's mostly just the singers dramatically yelling things like "Fighting dirty" and "Holy shitballs".
  • Mozart's Dies Irae is used in this film version of Doom -- Repercussions of Evil.
  • Ominous Latin-Sounding Gibberish plays when Queen Narissa enters the real world in Enchanted... and every time she uses her evil magic.
  • John Boorman's Excalibur features one of the more famous uses of "O Fortuna" during battle sequences.
  • Eye of the Devil has what appears on the surface to be a standard Catholic Latin Mass, but it is framed and shot to be very ominous, complete with a Bald of Evil Sinister Minister played by Donald Pleasence. Turns out it's a Satanic "black mass".
  • Eyes Wide Shut: the masked ball scene contains diagetic music using an Orthodox liturgy chanted in Romanian and played backwards to make it more otherworldly.
  • When Dom and Shaw start fighting in Furious 7, chanting can be heard.
  • Listen to the music that plays during Galaxy Quest when we see the Omega 13 in all its glory. Go on, you know you want to.
  • The surgical preparation scene in Get Out (2017).
  • The first transformation of Johnny Blaze into Ghost Rider is backed up by this chanting.
  • The soundtrack for Glory is made up of something that sounds like this chanting, but it's also kind of pretty. Special mention goes to Charging Fort Wagner.
  • God Told Me To uses this during the opening credits and some of the murders.
  • Godzilla (2014): György Ligeti's very creepy, very ominous "Requiem" (which had previously been most closely associated with 2001: A Space Odyssey) plays during the HALO jump. It was also used in almost all of the trailers for the film.
  • Subverted in Branagh's Henry V. The Awesome Music is in Latin, but instead of ominous, it's meant to sound hopeful and triumphant after the big battle sequence.
  • A main source of Narm in Hospital Massacre.
  • Hot Fuzz
    • Spoofed when members of the conspiracy are discovered chanting Latin. Word of God states the words are "bonum commune communitatis", "for the greater good of the community".
    • Played straight with the inclusion of "Dies Irae" in the run-up to Tim Messenger's death.
  • The Reveal for the title Cool Boat in The Hunt for Red October is backed by Ominous Russian Chanting — complete with Bilingual Bonus — to form a Moment of Awesome.
  • There is plenty of Ominous Hindi Chanting during Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. "Kali ma shukti de!"
  • Spoofed in the Jackass film, where "O Fortuna" plays during the intro, which consists of the cast members careening down a street in an oversized shopping cart with rocks being shot at them.
  • In the James Bond movie Die Another Day, Ominous backward English Chanting is used for the Big Bad's evil space laser. The phrase, according to the composer, is "look at the size of that umbrella".
  • Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: "Justice is dead!... or so Jay thinks!"
  • Jurassic World has the chanting heard during the climactic battle between Rexie and the I-rex.
  • Koyaanisqatsi features Ominous Hopi Chanting. Both it and its sequels (Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi) feature the film's title chanted (although in Powaqqatsi it's more joyful than ominous), but there are additional Hopi chants in Koyaanisqatsi, which are translated at the end of the film, on screen, as:
    If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster.
    Near the day of Purification, there will be cobwebs spun back and forth in the sky.
    A container of ashes might one day be thrown from the sky, which could burn the land and boil the oceans.
  • John Barry's music for The Lion in Winter makes liberal use of this trope.
  • Howard Shore's score for Al Pacino's Looking For Richard featured Latin translations of lines from Shakespeare's play. It was quite effective.
  • In the 1963 film of Lord of the Flies, the choir approach singing "Kyrie eleison" repeatedly, in upbeat mood, accompanying a rather triumphant sounding trumpet. It sounds ominous only in retrospect (or if you know what's coming). Ironically, "Kyrie eleison" is part of the Catholic mass and translates to "Lord, have mercy." This is more what it would sound like in the traditional Latin rite.
  • The Lord of the Rings movies feature ominous chanting in a variety of languages (largely the "Big Two" Elvish languages of Quenya and Sindarin), including the languages that Tolkien made up himself as the main purpose of writing the stories in the first place. Some of the songs were even composed by Tolkien himself. The words for lyrics of some original songs, other the hand, had to be improvised by linguists working on the film because of the meagre examples of non-Elvish languages that Tolkien left behind in his writings.
    • The vaguely Semitic-esque Adûnaic chanting whenever the Nazgûl make their appearance is quite ominous despite Adûnaic being the in-universe ancestor of the languages spoken by the Hobbits and the Men of Gondor (and the descendant of the tongues spoken by the "good" men of the First Age); the language was chosen because the Nazgûl themselves were once men, with their leader himself descending from the Adûnaic-speaking Númenóreans.
      Bârî 'n Nidir nênâkham. (The Lords, the Nine, we approach.)
      Nêbâbîtham magânanê. (We deny our maker.)
      Nêtabdam dâurad. (We cling to the gloom.)
    • At two places in Fellowship you can hear parts of the Ring poem (though not those in the Ring inscription) sung in Black Speech, the lingua franca of Mordor. Perhaps surprisingly, these aren't used for Sauron, the Ring, or Mordor (which have their own leitmotifs, but no lyrics), but for Saruman's lust for the Ring and its power.
    • The movies are also notable for the skilful use of a deep-voiced Polynesian choir chanting in Khuzdul (Dwarvish) during the definitely ominous Balrog scene in Moria. Indeed, it's essentially "O Fortuna" in Dwarvish instead of Latin (starting at about 1:12 here). The lyrics are notable for being as ominous as they sound:
      Urkhas tanakhi! Lu! Lu! (The demon comes! No! No!)
      Kâmin takalladi! Lu! Lu! (The earth shakes! No! No!)
      Ugrûd tashniki kurdumâ! Lu! Lu! (Fear rips our heart! No! No!) ...
      Urus ni askad gabil — (Fire in a great shadow —)
      Urus ni buzra. (Fire in the deep.) ...
      Arrâs talbabi fillumâ! Fillumâ! (Flames lick our skin! Our skin!)
      Ugrûd tashniki kurdumâ! Kurdumâ! (Fear rips our heart! Our heart!)
      Urkhas tanakhi. (The demon comes.)
    • That said, while composer Howard Shore was provided with full translations for the lyrics he was given to work with, he didn't always follow them linearly in the score, and sometimes they ended up quite chopped up. Plus mispronounced (the Sindarin rovail [wings] and naur [fire], in the battle at the Black Gate, should be pronounced as "roh-vile" and "nowr", not "roh-veel" and "noor").
  • Parodied in Woody Allen's Love and Death, during the battle scene, with the battle music from Alexander Nevsky.
  • The trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road and one of its action sequences features "Dies Irae". It also gets used after the Bullet Farmer is blinded and he starts shooting in a mad rage.
  • Marketa Lazarová: Zdeněk Liška's brilliant dark, ominous and rapid chanting score. [1]
  • Used occasionally in The Matrix trilogy:
    • The freeway scene in The Matrix Reloaded features "Mona Lisa Overdrive" by Juno Reactor, with Sanskrit chanting from "Navras," also by Juno Reactor & Don Davis.
    • The final battle in The Matrix Revolutions has some extremely Ominous Sanskrit Chanting in the background, although thematically it's rather positive: "And when he is seen in his immanence and transcendence, then the ties that have bound the heart are unloosened, the doubts of the mind vanish, and the law of Karma works no more." As the Wachowskis put it, "We couldn't very well have the choir chanting, 'This is the One, look at what he can do,' could we?"
  • Mission: Impossible
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail include a likely parody of The Seventh Seal by including a group of flagellant Benedictines who chant while bonking themselves on the head with wooden boards; for added comedy, the chant, "Pia Iesu domine, dona eis requiem" roughly translates as "Jesus, give us a break". "Pie Iesu" is later used to add majesty to the Holy Hand Grenade.
  • The Name of the Rose has four of them in-universe, used to make the abbey more realistic.
  • The Omen (1976) used "Ave Satani", an original piece inspired by "O Fortuna" as the theme for the young antichrist Damien. It's a a dark inversion of Schubert's uplifting "Ave Maria".
  • Craig Armstrong's "Escape" from Plunkett and Macleane starts out as ominous and quite mournful, it being played as Macleane is about to get hanged, but soon turns into a driving and triumphant score when Plunkett gets his Big Damn Hero on and rescues him.
  • RoboCop (1987) has a chorus that chants his name.
  • The flagellants from Bergman's The Seventh Seal sing the "Dies Irae", with lyrics "Pie Iesu domine, dona eis Requiem", translated, "Gracious Lord Jesus, grant them rest".
  • Parodied in Amber Benson's short film Shevenge, where the lead characters apparently don't know any actual Latin.
    (Chanting) Latin latin latin... Latin latin latin...
  • While not actual chanting, the opening driving sequence to The Shining is backed by a very slow version of "Dies Irae".
  • The trailer songs for the Spider-Man Trilogy.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness uses what sounds like Ominous Klingon Chanting during the aerial chase over the Ketha Province of Qo'noS.
  • Star Wars:
    • John Williams' now-classic "Duel of the Fates" is the Molto vivace from Dvořák's New World Symphony, with the lyrics consisting of a Welsh poem sung in Sanskrit. Apparently it's about trees going to war or something. Williams admitted that the lyrics have no intended meaning, they just sound cool. Williams repeated his success in Revenge of the Sith with "Battle of the Heroes". The Sanskritified lyrics come from the artistic-license-tastic translation of an old Welsh poem, The Battle of the Trees, as done by Robert Graves for his book The White Goddess: "Under the tongue root a fight most dread/And another raging behind, in the head."
    • Solo: A Star Wars Story has ominous chanting during encounters with Enfys Nest. The chanting is higher-pitched than usual with this trope, however, foreshadowing that the leader of Enfys Nest is actually a young girl.
  • Invoked in Star Wreck as ominous Finnish chanting.
  • Downplayed in Step Brothers. A short sound clip of this chanting plays when Brennan sees Dale's drum set (on which Dale has a strict 'do not touch' policy) sitting in the latter's room. It plays again when Dale, inspecting his drum set — suspecting it to have been tampered with — finds one of his drumsticks damaged. Cue the quarrel.
  • The Sum of All Fears has The Mission. While it's mostly a One-Woman Wail, the lyrics are in Latin and gives a rather haunting feel.
  • The Thin Red Line uses "In Paradisum" from Gabriel Faur&eacute at the beginning. O
  • The 2007 live-action Transformers film features a basso and an alto choir in counterpoint to each other being used for the Decepticon theme. Also used for the theme when Blackout attacks the base and when Megatron thaws.
  • Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie, ostensibly a documentary about nuclear testing, is an excuse to show lots of really big explosions set to Ominous (Russian?) Chanting.
  • In French movie Les Visiteurs, Pseudo-Latino-Romanesque-sounding language chanting is part of main theme: Enae Volare. Fitting with the Middle Age setting, but less with the movie genre, which is a comedy.
  • 1996's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet had epic "O Verona".
  • Mozart's "Dies Irae" underscores Nightcrawler's attack on the White House in X2: X-Men United.
  • The trailer for The X-Files: Fight the Future also used "O Verona" (albeit a tecno-ish remix).
  • In Young Sherlock Holmes, the Osiris cult chants ominously in some dead language during their climactic ritual. A lot of their lyrics are merely the name of the cult, "Rame Tep".

Alternative Title(s): Live Action Film


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