The Horrorville Haunt, Introsound 2013
In the years since I reviewed Monster Movie Haunts! in the first “Music to Haunt By” series, Hollywood Haunts (aka Introsound) seems to have focused more on creating albums intended for use at parties rather than spooky ambiance CDs. But don’t think that’s a complaint against the company. I’m just setting up how their latest release not only marks the company’s return to that format, but also combines it with dance music for a unique take on home haunting. To quote the instructions from The Horrorville Haunt:
“Play the Paranormal Music Tracks to create the perfect “dark vibe” for your Halloween Haunt, or chill-out your creepy Halloween props with the Paranormal Sound FX Tracks, or use both!”
While technically not the first CD containing spooky music and sound effects tracks, this is the first album I’ve ever seen that openly advises the purchaser to use it in such a matter, in addition to featuring several tracks that one could easily slip into the mix at your next Halloween party without disrupting the overall vibe of the party.
The first of the music tracks, “Freddy’s Horrorville Haunt,” gets the blood pumping and creates a sense of both pursuit and dread thanks to its loud, pounding music and sound effects. Said effects include growls, a woman screaming, lightning and “modern” horror music touches (you’ll know them when you hear them). The theremin work and wordless female vocals also nicely add to mix. “Tuned-in to Terror” has an almost carnival-style intro where a distorted voice welcomes us in and says it’s been waiting. The mix of spooky dance music, storm sounds and a woman screaming (along with evil laughter from our host) reminds me of something from A Halloween Moon, albeit with a superior layering of music and sound effects. This catchy little number would fit in perfectly in a haunted club scene. “Shock! Chiller Movie Theme” is decidedly more low key than past tracks, which I think adds to the creep factor. The spooky piano music goes great with the pounding noises and howling wind, but what really sets my imagination on fire is how, at some points, it conveys the musical sensation of crawling. Those segments make this track especially well suited for rooms featuring tons of spiders or any other creepy crawly critters. Alternately, you can have a hidden assistant bust out something like this when the “crawling” music starts up. Trust me, they’ll know it when they hear it.
The soft opening buildup eerie music that starts “Underneath the House” is wonderfully understated and ethereal. So if you’re planning on using a scene featuring a ghost, you definitely want to use this track. In fact, I recommend using it with a Pepper’s Ghost effect and slowly increasing the volume as the ghost slowly materializes. It should be noted, however, that it cranks up the amount of odd effects towards the end. “Freddy’s Hallway to Hell!” also starts off soft ‘n spooky, but kinda reminds me of opening to Ghostbusters at times. We also get some distorted laughs from our host, who is clearly not Robert Englund (or Jackie Earle Haley). It’s still effective, though. In addition to the woman screaming and pounding noises, there’s enough evil laughter to let this work in a haunted circus setup. Otherwise feel free to use this track if your haunt has a dark maze, tunnel of terror or haunted hallway. An evil voice comments about a freak of nature in “Horror-thon,” which is soon followed by far-off screams and laughter. The pounding organ and strings build up for most of the track and, in a nice change of pace, the screaming and groaning in this is provided by men instead of women. I recommend using this in a sideshow scene in your haunt.
The album’s Underworld Suite begins with “Underworld Pt I-Trapped!” Said track conjures up the feeling of wandering through a maze of tunnels. There are some light touches and great piano work, along with plenty of growling monsters, creaking and synth notes. However, the very electrically distorted “Help me” sounds less like something from the underworld and more like something from outer space. While the end of last track was soft, the start of “Underworld Pt II-Unburied” is super loud in a nice bit of aural trickery. There’s plenty of screams and evil vocalizations, along with a great closing heartbeat. “Underworld Pt III-Possessed” is perfect for any exorcism–based scene in your haunt thanks its use of a creepy music box and echoed mumbling in Latin. Heavy breathing and some great creepy sting work later takes over, but eventually gives way to a heartbeat. In “Underworld Pt IV-Doomed,” the Underworld Suite comes to an end with plenty of snarls and growls, along with a musical sense of fearful wandering that only increases as time goes on. The distant chorus of screams is great touch. I can see this working in a variety of settings, from hellish landscapes to monstrous zoos. It’s party time at the “Crypt Banger’s Ball,” which is a great jam with a catchy beat. Although there are plenty of scary sounds mixed with with the spooky keyboards and hand claps (there’s everything from a yowling cat to heavy breathing) I think this is better suited for use in your haunt’s waiting area rather than in the haunt itself. It’s best to get the crowds pumped before you let them in, after all.
The sound effects (or more accurately, soundscape) section of the album starts with “Scream House!,” which sets the scene with the sounds of a ticking clock and soft wind. A creaking and slamming door signals the arrival of a couple, who soon meet their grisly end from wailing spectral forces and bursts of ghostly energy and leave us with the storm and clock again. I recommend using this in the first room of your haunt, with the guests being told the story of the murders before they are let in. That way the sounds of the couple dying will come off as their ghosts reenacting their demise and you can hit them with another scare while they’re distracted. This would be perfect for any scene with a spooky clock, a clock-themed room or even one with a haunted clock costume-based scare.
“When Crows Attack!” combines the sounds of cawing crows and wind to great effect. There are lots of varied crow effects rather than same one looped repeatedly. Speaking of looping, this track is especially well-suited for such use. While perfect for scenes involving scarecrows, it also works in scenes with just crows. Imagine walking into a room filled with crows perched all over the place. Think The Birds and you’ll be on the right track. As you hear the sounds of their cawing, you notice a mutilated corpse in the middle of the room that has clearly been picked at by crows and that their beaks are stained with blood. Cue a misdirection-based scare and you’ve got a dynamite recipe for a haunt scene that everyone will be talking about. “Kruegerville Ghost Town” seems to be a reference to the condition of Springwood, Ohio in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, as all we hear are shutters slamming and hinges creaking in the loud wind (with the occasional barking dog). As is the case with all the soundscapes on this album, the effects are all varied and never sound like a single effect being played over and over again. So if you have a setup featuring boarded up windows and rundown buildings, this is the track for you. I should note that the album claims this is 5:30 minutes long, but playing it reveals that it’s only a second over 5 minutes in length. I’ll get back to this later, but for now let’s move on to “Stinkin’ Flies!” As you would expect, there’s nothing but the sound of buzzing flies. Thanks to the sound design, it sounds like they’re actually swarming around you. This is perfect for haunt scenes based around butcher shops, junkyards, filthy kitchens, rancid dinners, Amityville, etc.
“HauntScape” makes the listener feel like they’re surrounded by spirits swirling around you, thanks to its combination of wind and soft ghostly wails and groans. I think this would go great in a room featuring projected ghosts of some kind. Especially if you have a hidden ghost puppet set up to jump out at guests when they least expect it. The lengthy “Horror Thunder Storm” works in just about any haunt scene. In addition to the howling wind (which is different from the wind effects used in the previous tracks), there’s plenty of rumbling thunder and lightning strikes. So be sure to seek this out if you’re looking for the sounds of a medium class storm to use with your haunt’s lightning simulator. “Werewolf II” combines various growls and snarls with some wind, along with some wolf howls in distance. I like how the howling isn’t continuous, as I feel it’s more realistic that way. Naturally you’ll want to use this with a prop werewolf, be it animatronic or static. “The Soul Machine” nicely mixes ghostly breathing and pulsing noises. One could create one such machine by adding modified soul jars to their mad scientist’s lab gear or they can skip the soul part and use the track with their Tillinghast Resonator. If you go the resonator route, I recommend painting unearthly creatures on the walls with UV reactive paint. That way, creatures “from beyond” will appear when the machine is activated (turning down the regular lights and turning on black light while fading up on the sound effects). Be sure to have someone dressed as a monster waiting to leap out at people!
“Terrordrome!” is the CD’s longest track and hits the listener with tons of echoing effects. In addition to classic standards like wind, screams and monsters growling, there’s also electrical zaps and something that sounds like objects are hurtling past your head. Truth be told, it gives me flashbacks to my review of Sonic Realm. I can see this working in a haunted factory room, dark maze or even as the soundtrack for an entire garage haunt. Alternately, you can take a cue from Jason and Marcus and add a “Terror Dome” to your haunt. “Vampire’s Lair” features low wind, flapping wings and bats chittering, along with rattling chains and an owl. I personally found the chittering to sound kinda cute, so you might want to throw this on if you’re using bats that look more fuzzy than scary. Then again, visitors might not even have time to notice if the dungeon or vampire crypt you use it with has enough scares to distract them. Those planning to include a haunted forest in their haunt will definitely want to use “Forest Of Apparitions.” There’s plenty of bird calls and insects faintly chirping, along with soft wind and the occasional monster groans.
Although I did enjoy Monster Movie Haunts! for the most part, I think The Horrorville Haunt is a huge leap forward. There are far less issues with oddball sound effects and repetition this time around, which shows how Introsound can take criticism well and works hard to improve their work. It is with that in mind that I return to the issue of the track lengths differing from what is listed on the packaging. Many (but not all) of the tracks are either several seconds shorter or longer than the official tracklisting. As noted earlier, one track is even missing about 29 seconds if you compare the actual playtime to what’s written on the CD case. I spoke with Introsound prior to posting this and it turns out those 29 seconds aren’t missing…it was just a minor clerical error. The other time differences were due to the use of inaudible “pre-ambient” and “post ambient” sounds placed at the start and end of each track in order to prevent clipping when they’re used for more than one applications. Composer Gary Gelfand also noted:
“As for the ambient stuff-an old Hollywood technique from the Sound Track side of the business. -In audio, there are always [artifacts] that remain or precede recorded audio, especially when recorded with analog mics. You’ll find it a lot especially with analog recorded orchestral tracks. There is also an analog “print through” phenomena as well from audio tape reels and cassettes too. Perhaps it wouldn’t make too much of a difference in todays hard edged digital world, but I find that it lends a softness to the start and end of songs. I find that a lot of the new digital material is really “hard edged” and cold.”
As you can see from these behind-the-scenes details, they’re not called “Hollywood Haunts” for nothing! I’ve noticed this issue on other CDs I own and it’s wonderful to finally have an explanation for it. Getting back to the album itself, all of the tracks are suitable for individual looping and the layered sound mixes are top notch. Personally, I recommend playing the music tracks in a loop while handing out candy on Halloween, while using a mix of music and soundscapes in your home haunt in order to make sure everything fits your setup. Thankfully, the subject matter of many of said soundscapes in this album can be used for many different scenes. I look forward to see what Hollywood Haunts cooks up next!
Special thanks to Introsound for the review copy!
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