We’re diving into foley and sound design in horror movies!

Foley for any genre of movie is an incredibly important part of the audiences viewing experience. The sound of every punch, closing door, window breaking, etc. is difficult to capture while filming on set. To make up for the missing sound, sounds are often recreated and recorded in a separate studio after a scene is filmed and added in post production.

Horror movies are not for everyone but if you’ve ever seen one, you know they are filled with grotesque sounds that make you squirm in your seat. The sounds of bones cracking, limbs severing, and blood spewing each require their own unsettling noise. Though these gross parts in a horror movie may look real on screen in reality, they’re not! Because they aren’t real and are achieved through visual special effects, custom sounds are needed to add to the on screen effect these actions have.

Watch this video from Great Big Story to gain a better understanding of the art of foley in movies:

In 2018, A Quiet Place hit theaters and took audiences by surprise with it’s unique and intensely horrifying story. The film was noticed for its unusually quiet soundscape which is uncommon in horror movies. Though A Quiet Place was indeed ‘quiet’, a lot of work went into perfecting the sounds that can be heard while watching. Because the soundscape for this film is so scarce, it was extremely important to the director that whenever there was sound to be heard it was fitting, realistic, and most importantly creepy!

This video from Insider explains how foley artists recreated sounds from footsteps all the way to a monsters growl for A Quiet Place:

Sound design is equally important when it comes to providing a satisfyingly scary viewing experience. Rather than sounds of bumps in the dark or heads rolling on the floor, sound design covers the creepy music and dramatic one shots that can be heard throughout a horror movie. Aone shot” is a sound effect (usually a dramatic horn or drum) that is used to make a specific moment in a movie stand out. An example of a one shot is when the monster and main character of a horror movie lock eyes for the first time and the audience hears a thunderous BOOM.

The difference between foley and sound design can be confusing. A great way to discern the difference between the two is to understand that foley is used to recreate what the characters in a movie can hear and sound design covers sounds that only the audience can hear and not the characters.

In many ways, sound design is similar to scoring a movie. Placing the right sound at the right time is essential to getting the most out of a scene. Electronic Music Collective Instructors Shareef Islam and Nate Mars have commented on the importance of scoring for movies and gave some helpful advice in a recent blog post here.

Here is a video from Sound Field that demonstrates how sound designers and composers use music to create a more terrifying experience for movie-goers:

Now that you’ve seen the work it takes to deliver a horrifying soundscape, next time you’re watching a horror movie you’ll be relieved to know that what you’re hearing is likely a foley artist smashing a watermelon rather than someone actually being hit on the head.

FUN FACT: A Casaba Melon was used to recreate the stabbing noise in the famous shower scene of Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho!


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