Blade Runner 2049 and The Art of the Haunt

Last night I got a chance to briefly step away from all things Halloween when Mrs. Highbury and I went to see Blade Runner 2049. This was quite a treat because the last film I actually saw in the theater was Rogue One!

I won't go into any spoilers or even a full review, but I will say that I ABSOLUTELY loved it. As I was watching the visually gorgeous film, my brain began to think back to Halloween, and more specifically, my yard haunt display.

As the film played, I immediately noticed the attention that color played in every single shot. And because of the overarching dystopian feel of the film, it relied on bold, monotone swatches of muted earthy tones throughout. Especially during the scenes in Las Vegas. The sepia and orange was really blown out, giving it an incredibly harsh, arid feel. Does that color palette remind you of anything?

These scenes got me thinking about haunt displays in general, and how sometimes too many colors can actually work against you. And I think I'm a bit guilty of it, as well. Everything has a different spotlight color and before you know it, you actually have a Christmas display. Yuck. With all of theses colors competing for attention, the display loses a main focal point and everything becomes a jumbled mess.

This idea of color was carried out in other scenes, too.

Even with the scenes using cool colors, the palette was kept to a minimum, ensuring a dark, uneasy feel. The sparse use of highlight colors and an abundance of shadow worked incredibly well to produce a very specific feeling.

It's something that I am now going to explore more thoroughly in my haunt display. Pull back all of those competing spotlight colors and use the dark, shadow areas more prominently. I'm hoping that with less color, I may be able to actually evoke more atmosphere. This is something I hope to develop further and write more about this season.


The true effectiveness of Blade Runner 2049 was the union of two elements. The incredibly stylized, minimally-colored visuals plus an equally effective, minimal soundtrack to support them.

An effective haunt soundtrack is something that I have been exploring for some time now, as evidenced by how many music-based posts I have here. When I first began doing a yard haunt, I chose an old novelty Halloween cassette full of the standard, silly screams, moans and howls, and various rattles, clanks, jangles and skreetches.

But as my musical tastes continued to develop and evolve, I settled on the dark ambient genre to use in my display. It has an eerie, grating, uneasy feel about each track, and when it was paired with the visuals in the display, it works perfectly in the scene setting.

I really believe that the audio portion should support the visuals from behind, enhancing the look, and more importantly feel, of the display. With the old cassette, instantly recognizable sounds and vocals pulled the attention from the imagery to that sound effect. With dark ambient, you have a continuous sound effect that never jumps out and pulls the attention away. It supports and enhances the creepiness of the display and adds to the overall tension that we as haunters strive for.

The same idea was used in Blade Runner 2049. Some epic synthesizer notes combined with grading, somewhat industrial sounds and primal, tribal drum beats combine to really punch up the uneasy feeling of those beautifully colored scenes.

I have already downloaded the full soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, and while I don't plan on using it in my display, I do tend to use it as an important source of inspiration for effective use of sound and how it relates to visual display.

In specific regards to use of audio in my haunt display, I will be using Jeff Greinke's amazing dark ambient track from 1992, entitled, "The Moor." A completely creepy track on its own, but sits wonderfully behind the visuals in my cemetery display and enhances the uneasiness of the entire atmosphere. I will also add a few sparse, targeted sound effects in specific scene areas, but this track will be heard throughout the scene.

So there is my quick, personal take on the balance of sight and sound and its effect in Halloween haunt displays. Drop a comment below and let me know your take. 

If you haven't yet, I HIGHLY recommend you get out to see Blade Runner 2049, preferably in a full digital theater with a good surround-sound system, and immerse yourself in a complete feast for the eyes and ears for a couple of hours.

It's back to the standard Halloween grind for me, because as I glance at the old Halloween countdown calendar, we're down to just over 2 weeks to get it all done for the big night. I still have a few more projects to get done, along with a big announcement that I hope to share with everyone next week, as well as a slew of Halloween posts to get through! The sun is shining and the air is still warm in these parts, so it's time to get out to the garage and get some serious work done today. Everyone have a great October weekend!!


P.E. Cor said...

My husband and I went to see it opening day...IMAX. While we liked what we'd heard about 2049 I tried to steer clear of knowing too much so I wouldn't have any expectations. We are huge fans of the original.

From the moment the movie started (I got kinda choked up) I knew I was NOT going to be disappointed. By the film's end...the tears were running down my face (despite my attempts to choke them back). Not just for the story I'd just been immersed in, but because it felt so perfect as a sequel to a much loved film (all versions but especially the Director's Cut). My husband and I went home, poured some whiskey into our Blade Runner tumblers, and talked about what we'd just witnessed, how we felt about it and where the story might go if they decide to do more.

Good luck with the Haunt. It sounds like you've pulled some really good ideas from the film. Can't wait to see your pics.

Stay spooky!

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