★★★ out of ★★★★★
A young woman who saw her family murdered tries to recreate through music the feeling that occurred at that time in this horror outing that is heavy on human suffering but light on logic.
Directed by Alex Noyer
Alex Noyer’s feature film debut Sound of Violence begins with an intriguing premise but devolves into glorified torture porn. The film features some solid performances and a jarring finale, but comes with some confusing characterization and leaps of logic.
Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown) was deaf as a child until she killed her PTSD-ridden father when he was in the act of murdering her mother and brother. At the moment she bludgeoned him, she regained her hearing and had her first experience with chromesthesia, seeing an array of colors and lights with the sound of what killed him.
Flash forward to her twenties, when she is a teaching assistant at a university. She has devoted her life to experimenting with music and wants to recreate the unique feeling she had at her father’s death. She and her roommate/best friend Marie (Lili Simmons) pay a couple to record their BDSM session and Alexis starts to feel vague versions of the feeling, pushing the couple to go further until Marie calls a halt to the session. Alexis then strikes out on her own, devising elaborate death traps to record her victims screaming in agony.
That is where things take a dour turn for this reviewer. Alexis is initially presented as well adjusted and even somewhat sympathetic, but the character quickly becomes a cross between a mad scientist and a mad musician, with no prior background as to how she came to invent and build those death traps. One victim even becomes mesmerized after Alexis slips a Mickey into her drink. In the final shocking set piece, another victim — I’m trying to hint at things while remaining as spoiler-free as possible here — has had some things done to them by Alexis that would seemingly require much more time than the short amount suggested at in the film. Alexis should follow the rules of time, physics, and logic, and they seem to be thrown out the window here.
Also feeling out of place are police procedural scenes complete with a clichéd take-no-bull officer in charge. These scenes are jarringly different than the rest of the film’s tone and feel forced.
Sound of Violence does have several positive qualities. The performances from Brown and Simmons are both strong, with Brown shining in scenes of her character’s violence-filled ecstasy and her despair, and Simmons as a close friend willing to do almost anything for Alexis. Noyer has some great ideas in his screenplay, and his obvious love of horror is conveyed well in the gruesome denouements of Alexis’ victims. He also has a keen eye for crafting and shooting squirm-inducing set pieces. The fate of the final victim in the film is something that can’t easily be shaken from memory.
Fans of complex torture/murder apparatuses á la the Saw franchise may likely enjoy Sound of Violence more than I did. It’s a gripping but uneven work.
Sound of Violence screened as part of SXSW Online 2021, which ran from March 16–20, 2021.