‘Stranger Things 4’ Lead Sound Effects Editor Reveals How ‘The Omen’ Inspired Vecna’s Sinister Clock Chime

If you recently found yourself on Stranger Things TikTok, then you probably know that Season 4’s ominous chime of the Creel House grandfather clock — a sound now associated with the arrival of Vecna — has gone viral (along with Kate Bush, of course).

According to the show’s Lead Sound Effects Editor, Angelo Palazzo, the chilling auditory effect went through several months of refinement until series co-creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, were completely satisfied with it. “We didn’t know how aggressive we could go with it, so I was kind of testing the boundaries on where to go with this thing,” Palazzo tells me over Zoom, going on to credit longtime Stranger Things sound designer, Craig Henighan, with cracking the sonic code.

“The thing that he did, which really set the tone, was he was doing these cello impacts for the the clock ticks, initially. If you listen to it, it’s not just ‘tick tock,’ there’s a grinding and then a hit. A lot of these were cello impacts and cello grinds. As far as the big final death chime, the one thing I can say about it is that the Duffers were constantly referencing the movie, The Omen.”

Fans of Richard Donner’s seminal horror classic may recall a similar ticking and chime effect during the scene in which photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) begins to discover that certain individuals with knowledge of the Antichrist have been marked for gruesome deaths.

The Duffer Brothers have also cited A Nightmare on Elm Street, Hellraiser, and Stephen King’s IT as major creative influences on Season 4, particularly with regards to Vecna (Jamie Campbell Bower), who lures his victims into a dream-like state and taunts them with their deepest fears before going in for the kill.

“It’s all out on the table,” Palazzo explains of the cinematic inspirations. “That’s what’s so much fun about this show, especially for someone like me, because I was 15-years-old in 1986. I’m just the same age as those kids and I was like, ‘This is Uber nostalgic for me.’ Part of the fun is these references and the nostalgia.”

He continues: “One of the big challenges [this season] was, ‘How do you take a show that’s already got such a great foundation and is so established, and notch it up to the next level?’ … We saw that the Duffers were leaning into the horror element and the violence … We were getting into things like feedbacks and tension to create a lot of a lot more aggressive, abrasive, uncomfortable sounds that [made] things unsettling.”

While the show’s jumbo-sized fourth outing is the scariest one yet, horror is not its only defining genre characteristic. As it has from the very start, Stranger Things maintains a general sense of wonder and mystery that evokes classic Spielberg. The reintroduction of Dr. Sam Owens (Paul Reiser) in Episode 3, for instance, was intentionally crafted as an homage to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

“This woman is washing dishes, it’s evening, and then this thing descends. The whole house is shaking, there’s a light coming through the window,” Palazzo says of the UFO-inspired misdirect. “When Craig and I were we were talking about it, he was like, ‘The idea is not to reveal that it’s a helicopter. [We need to] somehow design the scene so there’s a lot of uncertainty, we don’t know what’s about to happen’ … I don’t know how many people pick up on this stuff, but … there’s a ton of ton of Easter eggs throughout the whole thing.”

Palazzo also played a major role in building the sound of the Demobats inhabiting the Upside Down. These pesky creatures can often be found congregating above the corrupted version of the Creel House where Vecna has set up shop.

“The idea was they’re not super dangerous individually, but as a swarm, good luck trying to get out of get away from these things,” Palazzo reveals, alluding to the end of Episode 6 when Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) is nearly killed by the winged nuisances. “They didn’t want it to be too typical screechy bats and there’s always got to be something unique with these sounds. It can’t just be, ‘Oh, screaming bats!’”

Similar to Vecna’s death knell, plenty of trial-and-error went into the Demobat signature as Palazzo experimented with “every leather jacket I could find” and “a lot of big, hefty canvas bags” to nail the bats’ “flappy, fleshy, leathery flaps.”

In terms of finding their screeches, Palazzo stumbled upon the answer in his own recording studio, which is home to a rather noisy closet door.

“[It’s got] this super annoying sound I never thought to do anything with until Stranger Things,” he admits. “When you slide it, it’s really stuttery and chittery … But it’s not so unusual for people in the sound world because a lot of creature sounds come from non-animal sources like woods creaking, threshing.”

Palazzo’s proudest achievement on Season 4 came in the form of the beat-up propellor plane flown by Yuri (Nikola Đuričko), an eccentric Russian smuggler who takes Joyce (Winona Ryder) and Murray (Brett Gelman) deep behind the Iron Curtain as part of a mission to rescue Hopper (David Harbour) from a Soviet prison.

“That was really just sourcing together a lot of different planes. We were going for these old World War I and World War II planes,” says the lead sound effects editor. The biggest element to its success was the noise of a failing Intertia Starter, which audiences most likely associate with the Millennium Falcon in the Star Wars films.

“With the plane, I was going through a lot of these transmissions and Inertia Starters and it was really just a lot of tight editing, of finding the right sounds that made the engine sound like it was grinding and cranking and sputtering,” Palazzo explains. “Yuri, to me, was just so funny and every time him and Murray are interacting, the comedy was so much fun. It was fun to ramp it up with the sound and get the airplane to be like almost this funny character that that Yuri knows how to work with.”

Stranger Things 4 will come to a close on Friday, July 1 with the premiere of its final two episodes — both of which boast gargantuan runtimes (408 clocks in around 1 hour and 25 minutes, while 409 borders on two-and-a-half hours).

“The action is just so high-octane. It’s really fast paced,” Palazzo says of the finale, praising the work of the Duffers (who wrote and directed the final two chapters) and editor, Dean Zimmerman. “The way they cut this stuff, the pacing is so good. You think ‘Oh, how are they going to fill this up in two-and-a-half hours?’ But before you know it, the thing’s over … It’s basically a feature film. There’s just so much action, it’s incredibly stylized, it’s fast paced, it’s super fun. If you’re a fan of the show, you’re you’re gonna get your money’s worth and then some.”

Click here to read the Forbes review of Vol. 1.

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