November 1, 2016

Tips on How to Record Gory, Bloody, Stabby, Sound Effects for Your Horror Film

EvilDead
Sometimes, all it takes is a little fruit to make our horror films more gruesome.

Indie filmmakers usually don't have a whole lot of money to drop on a professional foley artist to design sound effects for their films, and downloading stock sounds can be a bit of a headache, what with copyright issues and low-quality files and all. But in this video tutorial by The Film Look, you not only get to learn best practices for recording sound effects, but also how to utilize one of the best, most versatile tools for recording nasty, gory sounds: the watermelon.

Foley is one of those areas of filmmaking that have a ton of trade secrets, some of which you can uncover if you look hard enough. But it's no secret that the watermelon is a great source of all kinds of sounds; this post by Asbjoern Andersen of A Sound Effect explains just how versatile they can be:

The number one go-to fruit for gory sound effects is the watermelon; there are so many great sounds hidden in it. You can crunch, cut and rip the peel apart which is great for dismemberment and ‘body-opening’. Dropping a watermelon from a ladder to the ground that it explodes is great for—well—exploding heads and bodies. Playing with the ‘guts’ of the melon by grabbing, whirling and punching right in it for really disgusting splattering sounds. Cutting through the pulp with a knife is great for flesh slices (combined with the ‘Ching’-sound of a knife).

Other than the watermelon, there are plenty of other objects that create realistic horror sound effects. Foley artist Gary Hecker shared some insight on sound design with an interview with The Credits and explained what he used to produce sounds on films like The ThingA Nightmare on Elm Street, and Star Wars: Episode VThe Empire Strikes Back. Here's a quick list of some of the things he mentions:

  • Metallic "Shings": Hecker used a leather ammo belt, a machete, and surgical steel blades to create Freddy Kruger's signature glove sounds.
  • Blood splatters: Squeezing a water-soaked leather car chamois creates some great sounds for gushing, squishing, spraying blood. [Pro Tip: Adjust the pitch of your recordings for different sound effects.]
  • Stabbing: Though watermelons are great, Hecker uses red and green cabbages for a "crunching stab sound."
  • Bones cracking: Celery is a popular go-to for creating the sound of cracking bones. Wrap a stalk in a chamois and go to town—add a wet chamois to add an element of blood. Andersen says, "Carrots folded in a piece of leather make awesome ‘bone-snapping-under-the-skin’ sounds."

In terms of general sound effects recording, the tutorial offers a ton of great tips, like creating a sound-proof environment (or as sound-proof as possible), getting your microphone as close to the source as possible to avoid high gain levels, and recording a wide variety of different sound effects so you'll be able to produce better sound design.

What are some essential objects that you use for creating horror sound effects? Let us know in the comments below.      

Your Comment

5 Comments

I had to do the sound effect of a brain being removed (surgically) for a BBC radio drama years ago, and used the good old watermelon, but for the sound of removing part of the skull, I used a thin earthenware flowerpot and broke it with pincers to get the shattering skull noises. Filling your chosen object with wet newspaper is great for controlling the higher frequencies of these sounds so they sound a bit more like they're attached to a real body and give you some squidgy watery blood sounds. A lot of the perception of horror also comes from what you don't see: the suggestion, the script, actor reactions, timing. In radio a lot of these things are given, since you don't have the visual element, but the same applies in film. You are getting the viewer to use their imagination to join the dots and thus engage with what they are hearing.

November 2, 2016 at 6:38AM, Edited November 2, 6:42AM

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It's amazing that such great effects are made by simple things. Thanks for sharing!

November 2, 2016 at 11:21AM

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Back in the days of radio novels in the 40s, there was a detective show where "bodies" were "thrown" out of windows where they met their deaths hitting the ground. A watermelon was the "victim" of choice. However listeners became so upset by the sound of the "victim" hitting the ground that they had to stop using it!

November 2, 2016 at 12:35PM, Edited November 2, 12:38PM

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Vidrazor
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Yup - they had complaints after the broadcast I mentioned in my comment, and had to put a warning before the repeat transmission. That always struck me as quite funny, since any horror is all in people's minds already. But yes, that's what makes it powerful.

November 2, 2016 at 7:38PM

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This is how the hard jobs are made simple with these tiny efforts.

Same like this, we are gonna make simple with bank transactions.

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December 30, 2016 at 12:34AM

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