Binaural frequencies are sometimes the marrow of what makes you spill your popcorn at the cinema. That very artful use of layers of sounds and paint flicks of frequency are exactly what is behind the most impressive and terrifying bits of Gun Media’s Layers of Fear 2.
Layers of Fear 2 follows extremely method actor tasked by a complete auteur director to research, and to find, his character aboard a gigantic ocean liner.
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This sort of auditory alchemy has been used in a variety of ways over the years. Most notably, 2007’s Paranormal Activity raised the bar by subtlety sprinkling in pulse raising binaural elements to great affect. If you go back and watch, you will notice a strange low frequency hum that plays whenever the entity begins terrorizing the unfortunate couple. It was a brilliant and groundbreaking, not necessarily because these methods hadn’t been used before, but because Paranormal Activity is devoid of a musical score. Instead, you get these tense scenes with that harrowing hum.
Unknown to most, the film was using actual tones to affect mood and heart rate. Add that to some terrifying shit befalling a unsuspecting couple, and you had fried horror gold.
Sound Designer, Brunon Lubas incorporated a ton of low-fi tech to achieve the creepy whirlwind that paints the walls of Layers of Fear 2. This even extended to using analogue cassette tapes and a variety of hand crafted sounds.
The approach also leads to the mystically terrifying world of binaural frequencies.
Binaural’s have a wide range of uses, and can literally control aspects of mood when played at varying frequencies. These waves include delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma. Each control everything from sleep, relaxation, high level cognition and peak awareness. Some folks use these tones to help them sleep or to relax, but we aren’t here to talk about that stuff. Masters of the jump scare of found ways to use these tones against us and to ultimately scare the shit out of us.
Layers of Fear 2 creates some rather effective jump scares out of auditory beats alone. Since so much of the game (especially at its beginning) is less things you can see and more things you can hear, the use of binaural artistry goes to work immediately.
Right from the beginning, the game advises using headphones. I couldn’t agree more with this suggestion, to the point of it almost being a necessity. The sound design really swirls, lives and breathes around you in those moments and is incredibly intensified through the use of a good pair of headphones.
Binaurals really are the gravy of horror and Layers of Fear 2 piles it on thick, placing you in tense spot where a simple wine bottle rolling across the floor paired with the right audio cue and a stinging controller vibration is enough to make you jump right out of your seat.