Directed by Peter Strickland
Highly recommended by a friend, I settled into a strange, uncomfortable little horror movie called Berberian Sound Studio last night. While the title is forgettable, the film lingers in your mind. A Creepy, claustrophobic little homage to Giallo – it was a welcome change from the children’s programming that makes up my days (you know you’ve gone deep when you curse to yourself “Cinders and ashes!”).
Toby Jones plays the celebrated but private and meek sound man Gilderoy who, it would seem, has rarely left his pastoral boyhood home. After accepting a job, he finds himself unable to speak the language in more ways than one when he’s trust into machismo world of horror film making in Italy. The film he’s come to work on is “The Equestrian Vortex”, which he quite naively expects to be horse film similar to the nature movies he’s known for. Instead he finds himself listening to blood curdling screams on loops, stabbing heads of lettuce to folly torture scenes, and recording countless fruits splattering on the ground to simulate smashed brains.
Exactly what happens is somewhat open to interpretation. Unlike the graphic violence of the film within the film, all the horror we experience is implied. Tension and unease are created with sound and silence in stark contrast to the nasty bit of exploitation featuring witches, goblins and blood that slowly gnaw at Gilderoy’s subconscious. While we hear descriptions of the movie and the sounds of terror, we only ever see its opening credits (which are perfectly done – Giallo fans will get a particular kick out of them.) Oppressively, we are locked inside tight, smokey sound rooms and tiny recording closets, only once in a jarring turn seeing the outdoors. It’s very unsettling – a mood second time director Peter Strickland paints masterfully.
While there’s a moment it rather lost me and the conclusion could leave one unsatisfied (I truly haven’t decided if I wanted more or less explanations or if he got the balance just right) the journey is an interesting one with extremely innovative sound design that gets under your skin.
BBS is in theaters and available to rent at Amazon prime.