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Here's the Gnarly Story Behind the Head-Smashing Sound Effect in 'Midsommar'

"Oh boy, I need to wash up after that!"

by River Donaghey
Sep 11 2019, 6:25pm

screenshot via trailer

Midsommar was easily one of the best—and most terrifying—films in an otherwise miserable summer movie season. It may not have the same visceral impact as director Ari Aster's first film, Hereditary, but what Midsommar lacks in claustrophobic dread it makes up for in stunning visuals and some, uh, surprisingly solid jokes. But of course, Midsommar is an Ari Aster movie, so the thing inevitably devolves into some grotesque horror and bear-related violence.

And now, thanks to a new interview with Foley artists in Vulture, we can finally get an inside look at how exactly they created the sounds of all that stomach-turning gore—and it mostly involved playing around with some animal carcasses, apparently.

Remember that scene where (spoiler alert!) that mangled dude in the barn has his lungs hanging outside his body? According to Foley artist Jay Peck, the grotesque sound of his breathing all came courtesy of a big, wet slice of dead animal skin. Delightful!

We had to make the sound of the lungs filling, because he’s alive. The lungs are hanging out of his body, and to make the sound of the air going in and out through the lungs—breathing, basically—that was a challenge. I spent a lot of time on it, and I used this really large shammy made from animal skin. It was a really big piece soaked in water, and I spread it out on a flat concrete surface and plastered it down to the ground to create a kind of suction. Then I picked it up by the middle, and, as it pulled off, there was a scchhhheeew. That was a pretty good one.

Peck also shared some details about how, exactly, he and his team managed to create the sound of a human head getting smashed to bits during that horrible, Pagan Whack-a-Mole ritual:

When the head gets pounded, there’s really nothing else you could use besides a big side of beef. We did happen to have a pig head available at that time. I think I used a wooden stump to hit it, and it was pretty grisly. You know when you hit something, often you get little particles that fall? Yeah. So then it’s like, “Oh boy, I need to wash up after that!”

The entire article is full of stories of how sound effect geniuses crafted everything from Godzilla's bellows to the different footsteps of CG rabbits, but nothing is quite as ghastly as the Midsommar bits. Give the whole thing a read over at Vulture.