SXSW Online 2021 – Film Review – Sound of Violence (2021)

Alexis, a young deaf girl, witnesses the savage butchering of her family. She realises her hearing can be rebooted by the neurological stimulus provoked by the viscosity of extreme violence.

Having grown up into a talented musician, Alexis becomes obsessed with composing a sadistic symphony of suffering scored by the pain and mutilation of others.

Alex Noyer’s ballsy high concept horror picture hijacks the slasher template and retools it from the perspective of the homicidal maniac. As ambitious as it is spectacularly bloodthirsty it manages to feel both retrograde and groundbreaking at the same time.

Synesthesia is when two different cognitive pathways transfer information between themselves at the bequest of stimuli. This fascinating principle resides at the epicentre of Sound of Violence and the narrative and world-building germinate and sprout from it.

As a motive for murder, it is highly original and the film is so determined to run with it that it’s a pleasure to ignore the logic and plausibility that gets trampled to mush underfoot.

Much depends on the movie’s ability to translate this phenomenon into tangible visuals and audio able to convey the sense of euphoria and contentment it elicits in Alexis. This is where Sound of Violence excels with swirling mists of colour and resonating echoes of human infliction. As a storytelling solution, it’s not subtle, but it works beautifully giving the film a uniform identity and an iconic visucentric stamp.

Alexis is a superficially sweet protagonist who has been dealt a whole deck of shitty hands and we cannot help ourselves but respect her tenacity in the pursuit of artistic autonomy. However, when her mask slips she is revealed as a heartless killing machine with narcissism as her only true friend.

The character is thoughtfully portrayed by Jasmin Savoy Brown, look out for her further genre adventures in the new Scream movie, but it’s impossible to sympathise with such a sick and selfish sociopath. Then again, the film is quite content to exist outside of any empathetic remit and follow its own prescribed flight plan to carnage.

What saves Sound of Violence from B-Movie vapidity is the wealth of imagination and creativity it splatters about with punky assuredness. The numerous death scene set pieces are as miraculous as they are dubious but their sheer outlandishness will cement them in genre notoriety. One showstopping gorefest, in particular, will have you circumnavigating certain hired musicians for the foreseeable future.

There are half-glimpsed horror signposts if you were to be anal, such as Scanners and Taxidermia, but for the vast part, the manifestations of Alexis’ horrifically ingenious modus operandi are superbly original. Deliciously evil and utterly over the top they are so enthusiastically conducted that it seems churlish to highlight the gaping plot holes. So I won’t. This is, after all, supposed to be a slasher picture.

That being said, Sound of Violence shows more than enough generative artistry to elevate it well above many of its midnight movie peers.

The cinematography from Daphne Qin Wu is stylishly economical, allowing the trippy visuals to thrive without becoming smothering. The editing and production design are also to be commended. Especially in terms of keeping with the breathless and intoxicating ethos that drives the tone of the film.

Thematically Noyer’s movie shows philosophical depth and a trenchant intelligence that allows for viewer interpretation without shirking narrative responsibility. The all-consuming nature of mental pain management, the ethical boundaries of securing catharsis and the belief those sacrificed in the name of art become immortalised by it. Given the fact that Alexis’ slaughter spree is a direct product of exposure to her father’s combat PTSD, it could even be considered that Sound of Violence rocks an anti-war agenda.

Those expecting a generic slice and dice serving of trashy slasher will get more than they bargained for in the hypersensitive world of Sound of Violence. Whilst the film does not shut the door on genre playfulness it is a swaggering blast of body count cinema with a keen mind and focused artistic firepower.

★★★★

WORLD PREMIERE

Auditory Slasher, Horror, Thriller | USA, 2021 | Cert: TBC | 94 min | Gravitas Ventures | SXSW Online 2021 | 18th March. 2021 | Dir. Alex Noyer| Cast. Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro