Like any good horror fan, I've spent the last few weeks watching scary movies at home. Unfortunately, I live on a street that gets a lot of traffic (both pedestrian and automobile), and that leads to ambient noises disrupting the chilling vibes that horror movies work so hard to set.
Fortunately, I got a pair of AirPods Max on sale for Prime Day earlier this year. But I didn't really think they'd come in handy for Halloween time. I know as much as the next horror lover that scary movies are best experienced in the isolated environment of a movie theater. I primarily got them because I'm finally going on planes again, and said traffic gets really bad on Friday afternoons when I'm trying to write (literally what's happening as I type this out).
But, lo and behold, this past week showed me why I'll probably never watch a horror movie at home without my AirPods Max again. Oh, and, before you ask: yes, I'm watching a lot of these movies alone. If I have guests over, I'll probably put down the headphones.
Another note: as I'll explain below, similar experiences don't require the AirPods Max or even the Apple TV I was streaming movies on. Of course, those two pricey items combine for the easiest way to do this (one click of the TV button on the remote pairs the AirPods Max and an Apple TV).
Streaming senior editor Henry T. Casey calls himself "the streaming guy" for a multitude of reasons. He's obsessed with watching the latest buzzy shows, streaming devices and especially streaming services and what to watch. He's trying to manage his budget while worrying about the impending HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger.
AirPods Max made Halloween better than ever
Michael Myers, October's Terminator, doesn't need any enhancement to be more horrifying. The villain of the Halloween franchise has been haunting Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and various others for decades, all while terrorizing audiences. Sure, his latest chapter Halloween Ends isn't exactly great, but if you've watched Halloween (1978), you'll believe me that Myers is on the horror Mt. Rushmore.
That said, I never felt more petrified by the jumpsuit-clad masked man until I heard his belabored breathing more intimately than ever — through the AirPods Max I wore. As he hunted Laurie and her friends, the sounds of Myers' breath basically lingered in my personal vicinity, as if he was breathing down my shoulder. It was almost unsettling, which is exactly what I want out of a horror movie.
On top of that, the AirPods Max are just fantastic headphones for music, so John Carpenter's iconic and haunting synth-heavy score sounded fantastic. Every breath and tone hitting perfectly, I realized that these headphones were a better investment than I had expected they'd be. Which they'd better be, as they cost $467 after tax.
Oh, and the AirPods Max's active noise canceling played its role too, blocking out all the exterior noise so I could simply focus on the movie. Much like how you don't want to hear a conversation between nearby strangers at an actual theater during the middle of an impassioned monologue, you don't want to hear someone yelling downstairs while Michael Myers is chasing some kids.
You don't need AirPods Max or an Apple TV for this experience, by the way
When I recently tested the $30 Roku Express (2022), I got to see that it too is great at wireless and intimate sound while watching horror movies. So, when I popped on Scream 2, I opened the Roku app, tapped the Remote button and selected the Private Listening setting.
Then, I got to hear Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox), Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) and the rest of the college-set movie through my headphones, blocking out nearby honking, ambulance sirens and all the other audio detritus.
Yes, even the cheapest Roku will let you have wireless listening. And before you message me on Instagram to ask (it happens) I saw zero latency on the audio.
Outlook: Headphones aren't just for music
Maybe you live in a quiet neighborhood (the kind Michael Myers would terrorize). Maybe you don't mind the sounds of your area infiltrating your movie night.
But if you haven't watched a movie with headphones on? Trust me, it's a bit of a game changer. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to try and finish Halloween Ends — though the noise canceling won't stop me from getting distracted by how clunky the script is.
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Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.