Fatalities have never sounded this cool.
Mortal Kombat is known for its outrageous finishing moves that leave the victim heartless or headless. The 2021 reboot that was released back in April did not shy away from the gore and glory of these epic fight scenes. Part of what made these fights so enjoyable for fans of the Mortal Kombat franchise was the incredible sound design team.
The foley and sound design team went above and beyond to create realistic sounds of blood squirting and flesh-tearing for the over-the-top fights. Each sound had to match the gruesome scene perfectly while living up to the fans' expectations.
Insider sat down with Mortal Kombat’s sound team and discovered the best gore sounds can be found in your backyard or local farmer’s market. Check out the full video here:
How to find sound
To make the audio sound as realistic as possible, the sound team and foley artist Adrian Medhurst focused on capturing sound from real objects. This kept the audio from sounding overprocessed. Although the team did have a large digital library, a vast majority of the sound landscape was done by using everyday objects such as citrus fruits, melons, wet gravel, and newspaper.
Creating new sounds was crucial for the Mortal Kombat characters. Many of them have their special skills or fatality moves that had specific sounds that couldn’t be replicated through a digital library.
For Mileena (Sisi Stringer), her notorious large and exposed teeth required her flesh to rip apart to expose her extended mouth in the film. It was up to Adrian Medhurst to create the perfect sound. He created the crunching sound of the flesh splitting by cracking a stock of celery and then crushing a bell pepper to create a hollow sound. For the oozing sound of blood and some saliva dripping from Mileena’s jaw, Medhurst ground wet gravel in his hand for the needed texture.
With a little adjustment here and there, Medhurst found that cupping his hand a specific way created a hollow sound that matched the audio of the bell pepper perfectly. When all three sounds were layered over each other, the result was enough to make an audience squirm with excitement and disgust.
Kung Lao’s (Max Huang) signature razor-brimmed hat requires a metal plate and metal strips to create its sharp sound design. Sound designer Robert McKenzie added the finished sounds to Kung Lao’s hat by scraping a knife against a cymbal, then applied a Doppler effect to distort the sound ever so slightly and make it sound as if the hat is passing right by the audience.
The sound of fatality
These distinctive weapons mean very specific kills. Since most of the kills in Mortal Kombat involve many body parts and weapons, the sound of the kill involves many layers of audio design.
When Kung Lao splits Nitara (Mel Jarnson) in half with his weapon, the sounds of flesh, metal, and bone being split have to be created. For the flesh, Medhurst started with a pile of wet noodles before adding wet newspaper to the mix. Slowly, he builds his concoction to create the sound of a person being split in two. For the blood, Medhurst used grapefruits and tomatoes and hard-stemmed veggies like celery to mimic bones cracking.
The sound of punches even had to be reimagined for when Jax (Mehcad Brooks) repeatedly punches Reiko (Nathan Jones) in the face with his metal arms. Punching a grapefruit was a fruitless attempt because the weight did not sound right for Jax’s arms. Instead, a hammer hitting a melon was used to create a sharp break.
There are different types of gore in the film, and each one is accompanied by a unique sound that is specific to a character’s action. The sound design team looked very closely at the layers of blood and the velocity of blood or body parts before setting up to replicate the sound as closely as they can. The props are used almost as instruments to create the harmony of gore that makes the fatalities in Mortal Kombat all that more memorable to the fans.
Finding the perfect harmony of blood and guts can be a bit of a journey, but it’s a fun one that requires you to get your hands a little dirty.
Sound design is all about experimentation. If you need a little more of a slithering sound to add a little bit more slime to an oozing heart, add an octopus movement sound from the digital library. It’s all about playing around with what you have available to you to create a scene that is equally gross and fascinating to an audience who is infatuated with the observed violence of Mortal Kombat.
Do you know a film that has a killer sound design? Tell us why you love it in the comments below!