On the surface, Sound of Violence has an intriguing hook: Alexis (Jasmin Savoy Brown, The Leftovers) is a young musician who, as a child, was miraculously cured of her deafness by murdering her dad with a meat tenderiser, right as he himself was killing her brother and mother in the midst of a PTSD-induced break. By killing her father, she both regains her hearing and discovers her synaesthesia.
The opening scenes in which this background is established are both thoughtful and gut-wrenching. A young Alexis follows strange, bass vibrations travelling through the walls to find her father hunched over her mother, bludgeoning her body. They suggest a sensitive and complex film concerned with how trauma and violence affect its protagonist’s perception of the world. Alas, Sound of Violence is not that film.
Director Alex Noyer is unconcerned with building on this setup in any way; it’s merely a means for Alexis to discover her violence-triggered synaesthesia, the high of which motivates her ensuing murder spree in hopes of completing her “musical”. And that’s about all the depth this film can muster.
Neither abstract or imaginative enough to be deemed experimental, nor gritty enough to make for good horror, Sound of Violence is a messy and tonally dissonant attempt at something greater. The deaths are clearly intended to be the film’s centre pieces, with the rest of the story feeling like a hastily thrown together way to get from one gore fest to the next, complete with hammy dialogue, paper-thin characterisation, and a pointless investigation side-plot.
Granted, some of the murders are pretty creative, and one scene involving a harpist proves appropriately disturbing. Yet for the most part, Alexis’ killings are so elaborate and outlandish that they quickly tip into comedic territory. Not great for a movie that, by all indications, wants to be taken seriously.
There’s also issue to be had with the portrayal of Alexis’ relationship with her friend Marie (Lili Simmons), for whom she has clear romantic feelings. Things go south when Marie starts dating Duke (James Jagger), which spurs the film’s sole queer character to violently lash out because her best friend doesn’t reciprocate her feelings.
What keeps Sound of Violence from being completely awful is lead actress Brown’s clear commitment to her character (even if the script gives her very little to work with), the editing, and the visualisation of her synesthetic episodes. But that’s definitely not enough to make this movie worth seeking out.
Sound of Violence screened as part of SXSW 2021 Festival, and will release on demand May 21st in the US, and August 31st in the UK.