M. Night Shyamalan is still going for the horror jugular on screens small and large (his new film “Old” is out July 23) , and the second season of his deeply dysfunctional family thriller “Servant” proves he’s showing no signs of letting up. The AppleTV+ drama continues the tale of Dorothy and Sean Turner (Lauren Ambrose and Toby Kebbell), a young Philly couple reeling from the death of their 13-week old son while simultaneously embracing the arrival of both a transitory “baby doll” who Dorothy believes to be real, as well as a mysterious nanny named Leanne (Nell Tiger Free), who throws the family into further paranoia.
One of the creepiest elements of the chiller is the precise sound design, evidenced most boldly in the Season 2 episode “2:00”, directed by Shyamalan, in which Leanne has found herself imprisoned in an attic by Dorothy, leaving her husband Sean to find the attic key and see for himself how far gone things have gotten. This particular episode has already been honored with a Golden Reel Award for its acoustic acumen and sound editing supervisor Sean Garnhart walks TheWrap through a handful of different audio tracks, and how he and his colleagues approach each one.
THE SOUND EFFECTS AND PRODUCTION AUDIO TRACKS
Seemingly similar, there are small distinctions to each of the clips above. “The show’s sound effects editor Mark Filip uses sound to make things spookier, clarify story points, and highlight details,” says Garnhart. “The pipe moaning and gurgling at the beginning of the scene causes us to wonder if the house is possessed…or is this just a regular basement? As Sean makes his way up the attic stairs, we hear stair creaks and the buzz of Leanne’s Christmas lights. Mark and I created this buzz to subconsciously add tension to this unsettling attic domain. It’s not a friendly place.”
THE MUSIC TRACK
But what would a horror series be without the atmospheric score? “Trevor Gureckis’ score is spooky, intriguing, and sometimes wonderfully sparse,” says Garnhart. “All the creaks and details of other sounds can poke through to engage and capture the viewer’s interest.”
THE FINAL TRACK
And at last, here is the finished product, just slightly over one minute, with all of the elements blended into one suspenseful whole. “This scene in “Servant” illustrates the tension created by sound in the entire series,” says Garnhart. If you listen closely, you can pick out the many different elements that work with the music to create an uneasiness in a deceivingly simple-looking scene.”