How the 'Hereditary' Star Created the Film's Most Memorable Sound Effect

Horror films typically utilize horrifying visuals to evoke fears in an audience, though another tool filmmakers in the genre often utilize is a unique sound effect which can resonate with audiences just as powerfully as any shocking image. In the case of Hereditary, the young Charlie, played by Milly Shapiro, used a specific tongue click to create a jarring sound effect to startle viewers. The actress recently detailed how the subtle sound effect was created before filming.

"We actually had some meetings to get like the perfect sound," Shapiro shared with ComicBook.com. "It was written in the script as like a click. We were like, 'Okay, so what's the perfect sound, so it could be like the character's tick? Something they do when they're nervous or overwhelmed.' We had a meeting devoted to that, where [writer/director Ari Aster and I] were both making clicking noises. We probably sounded like we were insane, but we were making a bunch of clicking noises, trying to figure out which one would sound the best."

Much like there are go-to images to use in horror to convey a creepy presence, there are also cliched sounds that movies have used repeatedly, such as the sounds of children laughing, with Hereditary wanting to offer audiences something entirely new to creep them out. Outside the context of the film, a tongue clicking is incredibly innocuous, though the film has given the audible tick an all-new meaning.

"I feel like that sound is one of the things that creep people out the most," Shapiro noted. "It's a very subtle way of getting across a presence, without making it too cheesy, like writing on the wall, saying, 'I am here,' or their favorite toy rolling down the hallway, something like that. It was like a subtle way of doing it through sound, because they're like, 'Was that even a sound effect? Something just like knocking? Was that someone in the theater doing it?' I think it gives a lot of paranoia to the audience."

When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited. Making his feature debut, writer-director Ari Aster unleashes a nightmare vision of a domestic breakdown that exhibits the craft and precision of a nascent auteur, transforming a familial tragedy into something ominous and deeply disquieting, and pushing the horror movie into chilling new terrain with its shattering portrait of heritage gone to hell.

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Hereditary is out now on Digital HD and hits Blu-ray and DVD September 4th.

Did the sound effect stick with you after seeing the film? Let us know in the comments below or hit up @TheWolfman on Twitter to talk all things horror and Star Wars!