Sound of Violence
2021, NR, 94 min. Directed by Alex Noyer. Starring Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro, Dana L. Wilson.
REVIEWED By Trace Sauveur, Fri., May 28, 2021
While a good score is typically an element of horror films that will often get singled out as a highlight, it’s rarely you find genre offerings wherein the music acts as the driving force of the plot. Writer/director Alex Noyer has delivered a film that explores the idea with Sound of Violence, attempting a brutal study of the devastating pursuit that is creating one’s masterpiece, and how far someone might go to do it.
Jasmin Savoy Brown plays Alexis, an artist that lost her hearing at a young age; that is, until it returned to her in the middle of experiencing the horrific murder of her family firsthand. Not only that, she gained a case of synesthesia, which for her manifests by being able to actually see sounds (communicated in the film with neat psychedelic episodes of pulsing neon hallucinations). Now a part-time music teacher while on a quest experimenting with boundary-pushing sounds, Alexis’ hearing is once again on the fritz. Her solution? Keeping it alive through the sweet noise of grisly, vicious musical experiments on human subjects. All in a day’s work for a budding homicidal musician.
Noyer certainly makes a case for music-slasher as an interesting subgenre. Once past the shoddy prologue, it doesn’t take long for Alexis to start picking off victims using her, erm, unique methods of torture/artistic ingenuity (depending which way you want to look at it). You’ve probably never seen a drum machine or a theremin used as murder tools, but here you’ll certainly be convinced of their utility. In its best turns toward body-horror, the film is even reminiscent of the macabre intersection of gooey human flesh/the rigid, artificial nature of technology as seen in something like David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. While it aims for the sickening insights of Japanese body horror model Tetsuo, it ends up somewhere between the glistening slickness of splatter action flicks like Tokyo Gore Police, and the melodramatic camp of 2018 classical music mutilator The Perfection.
It’s between these sequences of murderous musical mayhem that things really deflate. The script flounders when looking for actual tension between Alexis and her none-the-wiser friend Marie (Simmons) and seems to not know exactly what to do with its world when things quiet down. There are gestures toward a deeper interiority to Alexis’ character – and perhaps a different, genuinely thorny film about great art via dubious methods – but it never quite investigates that far. The potential is here, but with Sound of Violence, the blood only runs so deep.
A version of this review ran as part of our SXSW 2021 coverage.