When a horror film made in New Zealand Come home in the dark premiered on Sundance earlier this year, the use of its voice is perhaps its most deceptive feature. Breaking off the usual jump scare queues and the obvious musical impulse to lure the audience into reaction, the film takes a more refined approach, using naturalistic sound to give a higher premise a more organic feel, essentially putting the audience in the midst of terror.
Not paying attention to the noises enveloping the film is testament to the responsible design team. The sound of a gun, the gravel under someone’s feet, the bells of a convenience store entrance – an excellent final example of film use – all sounds that are often taken for granted in the grand scheme of film showtimes.
Often the heroes of unsung films, sound design teams have a more influential presence on a production than most people realize. The special team behind Coming Home in the Dark’s expert vibe is POW Studios, a production studio located in the heart of Wellington, New Zealand, where their collaborative efforts have supported the production of films such as King Kong, District 9, What We Do In The Shadows, and Lord of the Rings.
While the big budget endeavors have undoubtedly proved attractive, POW CEO John McKay, Creative Director Matt Lambourn, and Artist Foley Carrie McLaughlin – covered the intricacies of Back home… from her Sundance screening – noting that it is small films that provide real joy in their field of profession; the smaller the set and the budget, the bigger the creative challenges and rewards.
A company born out of their desire to create a platform as a collective unit, rather than seeking individual projects, POW is looking towards a new era of New Zealand filmmaking, a booming movement that McKay himself championed following the early interest arising from the success of Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings.
As someone who loves all aspects of film, it has been quite an exciting experience for me personally to learn more details about the film industry. McLaughlin himself was more than gracious to open up to the role of a foley artist and what exactly was used to provide the voice for a film, although, as he readily admits, his role as a foley artist emerged accidentally, only requested by a colleague’s father. to assist in a project in which he was assigned to be the voiceover for an on-screen actor; “Influencing actors with voice”, he noted.
When dialogue and bigger-than-life voices are picked up by sound editors, McLaughlin prides itself on being the one on location to capture the finer voices; the lightest sound emanating from the movement of a piece of clothing or, as she enthusiastically recalled, the crunch of snow under the feet of Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and Danny Houston on the 30 Days Night, a title he clearly held in his heart.
Noting their love for horror films, Back home… leaning on the mentality of creating suspense, making silence essentially its own character as we witness formidable victim Erik Thomson’s attempt to survive Daniel Gillies’ imposing executioner psychotic grip. And while cinematography and direction can be attributed to the boldness that the film gives, McKay – who has been in the industry for nearly 50 years now – is delighted by the fact that it is his studio work that is really behind the reasons why the film is just as tense. as it is. Silence, as Lambourn puts it, is the best compliment a person can give Back home…, raising awareness that the lack of a musical score might suggest silence, but it is the tiniest organic sound accompanying the frame that increases the discomfort the audience will experience; “Sound design is manipulative”.
Strongly adhering to the fact that music and dialogue alone were not enough to build a world of film, discussing the intricacies with the POW team only further confirms how much effort is put into productions beyond aesthetics that are more accessible to our immediate senses. . There are subconscious factors that we, as spectators, underestimate when watching movies. Eliminating atmospheric noise – cars passing by and crowd noise on a busy road or the rustling of trees in an open forest – would give the process an unnatural feel, even if we couldn’t pinpoint why such a void would be so noticeable.
While still a visual medium, sound and everything it includes are very important. An additive that is supposed to work with visuals rather than fighting, sound design is very much the unspoken champion of film, with POW Studios creating personalities for themselves where they’re in the pockets of choice where budget and excessive narrative are on the side of smaller, more many intimate productions that deserve a lot of attention and attention.
Come home in the dark originally reviewed as part of us Sundance Film Festival scope.