Synopsis: A young girl recovers her hearing and gains synesthetic abilities during the brutal murder of her family. Finding solace in the sounds of bodily harm, as an adult, she pursues a career in music composing her masterpiece through gruesome murders.
Stars: Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro, Brian Huskey
Director: Alex Noyer
Running Length: 94 minutes
TMMM Score: (4/10)
Review: The biggest gripe I have in movies these days, and horror films in general, is a lack of originality when it comes to their delivery. While it may be true that there are only a set number of core plots that every story springs from, it doesn’t explain away why every rom-com has to follow the same path toward happily ever after or how revenge is most often a killer’s motivation in slasher films. There’s nothing in the rulebook saying you have to move from Point A to Point B in a set number of moves so lately I’ve been more interested in films that go off the beaten path, especially if the terrain they choose is extra rough.
Believe it or not, the most impressive aspect of Sound of Violence are the visuals. While this creative horror film gets some mileage out of an interesting way into its creepy story through exploring the phenomenon of synesthesia, it winds up overwhelmed by its own oddity. What’s troubling is that you as an audience member can see this wrong-turn wave coming but then have to watch filmmaker Alex Noyer do nothing to get out of its way, only lean further into it. The result is a frustrating experience of wanting to lift up the inventive facets of this independent horror film, which are indeed imaginative, while also considering that perhaps there is something to be said about straying into territory that repulses rather than frightens.
Losing her hearing as a child comes as a devastating blow to Alexis, especially seeing that it comes right as she is moving into adolescence and during a difficult time for her family. It’s the result of an unthinkable tragedy that she miraculously regains her hearing…and more. Now she experiences not just aural sensations but a visual one as well, bursts of color and hued designs leap into her mind when she hears noises associated with brutality or bloodshed. It’s a type of stimulation known as synesthesia and Alexis is experiencing the version that produces color when her cognitive pathway to sound is fueled.
As an adult, Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown) has become intent on studying the power of sound, mixing her own music as an experimental musician in the evenings while paying her bills as a part-time DJ. She’s also a TA in a local college, giving her the opportunity and access to equipment she can use to fine tune her thesis. With the help of her roommate Marie (Lili Simmons), Alexis visits a dominatrix to record her session with a customer wanting to be whipped and it’s here where her condition leads her to a precipice. She begins to understand that the more violent the sound, the deeper the sensation in her mind and the better recordings she can make.
Noyer’s film is inspired by his original short film form 2018, Conductor, in which the character of Alexis plays a minor but pivotal role. By expanding on her here and investigating who she is, he dispels much of the mystery of his well-regarded short and I’m not sure that serves either film very well. The further Alexis goes in her commitment to creating her music (which, by the way, sounds like total trash…which, maybe is the point?) the more removed the audience becomes from her. Not that we are supposed to be invested in her (or like her) but if Noyer wants us to remain engaged we have to find some thread about the leading character that keeps us involved.
The most interesting person on screen is (and this is no knock to Brown who is overall fantastic as Alexis) is Simmons as Alexis’ roommate who doesn’t see that her friend is a dangerous psychopath who lures homeless men into a grotesque death trap and, in the film’s showstopper, somehow drugs a harpist into literally playing until the flesh comes off her fingers. Simmons handles the slow build of not accepting her long time friend is capable of undertaking such atrocities well, you can see the gradual realization of who Alexis really is weigh heavily on her. By the time we get to the finale on the beach (what’s it with movies with shocker endings on beaches? This and Saint Maud both must have it in for sandcastles) nothing you see or hear is much of a surprise, though give both actresses credit for going full-out in a tricky juggling act to close out their movie.
There’s definitely something alive in Noyer’s film and director’s eye but Sound of Violence happens to turn the dial up a few notches too far. It’s sure to please fans of garage metal music and ultra-violent horror films with little redemptive qualities for any of the characters but I wanted more balance to the madness, more examination of the character behind the crimes. There’s an over eagerness to get to the violence after a while and that grows tiring when you can see the director and actors are worthy of more.