The Shocking Truth Behind Scary Movie Special Effects

Be it in movies or a haunted house, Halloween is all about a good scare: turning a dark corner and running into a cackling corpse, finding a bloodied head hanging in your closet or opening the door to a knife-wielding zombie.

It’s enough to make you run to your mamma. But how does Hollywood create all that blood and gore? And what role does food play in those spooky scenes? Special effects, prop crews, and sounds artists (a.k.a. Foley Artists) rely on a variety of foods — from melons to chocolate syrup — to get your scare on.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Casaba Melon

According to The New York Times, this was the melon of choice to create the sound of Janet Leigh being stabbed over and over again in the famous Psycho shower scene. As Stephen Rebello explains in his book, “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho,” Hitchcock originally sent for a watermelon. The prop man, anticipating his boss' perfectionism, brought in several varieties of melon. The director closed his eyes and listened while melons were auditioned, and Casaba won out.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Watermelons

If you take a watermelon and crack it open, it makes the sound of a head splitting. Break it apart and it gives you the sound of guts or brains being pulled out.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Pumpkins

To create the sound of tearing someone’s heart out, sound artists often rely on giant pumpkins. They open up the top and start yanking out the pulp and seeds.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Dry Pastas

Spine-tingling bone breaks are created by crunching up all different types of dried pastas — ziti, manicotti, giant shells, whatever. Get ready to cringe.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Potato Chips

Crunching chips gets you the sound of creeping through the woods or jungle underbrush in a scare scene.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Celery, Lettuce, & Bok Choy

Tear it, rip it, squash it, roll it, chew it. These leafy vegetables are perfect for creating “great visceral gut-wrenching sounds like splintered neck muscle,” says Leslie Bloome, a sound artist for 26 years.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Shasta Chocolate Syrup

When movies were black and white, moviemakers favored chocolate syrup, which made a starker contrast than red blood. They used a squeeze bottle for best delivery.
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Corn Syrup

Prop departments favor a combination of corn syrup and Ehlers red and yellow food coloring for blood. While this is generally the realm of special effects or the prop department, sometimes things get a little more complicated. On the filming of the Oscar-nominated A Most Violent Year, the special effects crew mixed a batch of blood for the end of the movie — a bullet to the head that splatters all over a white wall. “There was some sort of mix up with the blood and when the squib went off, it looked like Pepto Bismol hit the wall,” recalls the movie’s Visual Effects Supervisor, Mark Russell. “I had to fix that one.”
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Illustration by: Mallory Heyer.
Half-Coconuts, Stuffed With Padding

Perfect for those intense, relentless hoof noises chasing you down, à la headless horseman.
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