The sounds of horror

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The Maid (2020) — NETFLIX

Netflix offers theater quality sound for smart TV viewing

HORROR FILMS are often defined by their sound designs because silence, a thump, a creak, lend themselves to a more immersive experience for the viewers. But with cinemas still closed and films having to pivot towards streaming sites to get their audience, is sound (especially for horror films) still an effective medium for an immersive experience? Netflix says “yes,” provided that you watch the horror movies on your TV sets.

“Some of the most iconic moments in TV and film are defined by their score. Without the background sounds, would Dark be as haunting? Or Kingdom as scary? In 2019, we introduced high-quality audio so that sounds you hear on Netflix are closer to what creators hear in the studio, and every little detail is captured for a richer, more intense experience,” Scott Kramer, production sound technology manager at Netflix, said in a statement.

High-quality audio means that streaming service Netflix can support 5.1 surround sound and Dolby Atmos, the same kind of audio technology used in cinemas.

And that kind of sound can be replicated on many smart TVs and home studio setups, according to Traithep Wongpaiboon, the sound post-production supervisor of Thai horror film The Maid (2020), directed by Lee Thongkam, in a digital conference on July 23.

“Actually we mixed the movie as we did in theatrical [releases] but later on with Netflix… we just re-checked it because Netflix has studio quality streaming,” Mr. Wongpaiboon said.


In the film, the soundscape is said to “transport viewers across the film’s different acts, subgenres, and moods to deliver the story’s full impact and creative intent,” according to a Netflix statement.

Note that if one wants to view the film on mobile devices like laptops or mobile phones, they will not have the same sound experience as Netflix only provides stereo sound for mobile viewing. Having a setup with a speaker that supports surround sound is the only way to get the highest quality sound possible.

The Maid is a recently released horror slasher film about a maid who starts working for a rich family. Mysteries abound within the family and as the new maid tries to adapt to her new job, she is haunted by the spirit of the previous maid and tries to discover what led to her death. A monkey doll is involved.

The film is Mr. Thongkham’s first feature film.

“To me, the horror film is the kind of genre… [where] I could show all the elements of sound. I can design sound. I can make a plan, like a trap for the audience to [make them] feel scared,” Mr. Wongpaiboon said.

The Maid is currently streaming on Netflix. — Zsarlene B. Chua