UCLA researchers published a study this week that explains why horror film scores freak us out so much. Apparently the music mimics distressed animal cries and while we know that some filmmakers used this intentionally (1933's King Kong sampled and modified animal sounds to disturb audiences) others have probably been recreating the sounds instinctually, says the study's lead researcher.
Scientists have dubbed the loud, high-pitched screeches or screams that animals use to warn of danger or cry for help as "non-linear vocalizations." They say that humans mimic these sounds as well. Computers were used to analyze 102 iconic scenes from horror movies, which researchers chose via online polling. These scenes included moments like the shower scene in Psycho. In the beginning of their experiment, they studied four film genres -- adventure, horror, drama and war -- but found these non-linear vocalizations were only found in horror cinema and occasionally dramas. They must be mistaking the noises surrounding dramas for the piercing cries I make whenever I happen to flick past a Lifetime movie.
Hopefully horror filmmakers and composers will continue exploiting our brains for years to come!