Return of 31 Days of Our Favorite Horror: Berberian Sound Studio

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Berberian Sound Studio (2012)  Dir. Peter Strickland

If there is one thing that I hate in the horror genre, it is a smarmy and winky-noddy-shit-eating grin-type of “homage” to a sub-genre. While this movie does in fact mimick elements of the Giallao and general 70’s Italian horror scene, this movie is not an homage, it is an example of how to do Giallo correctly, in my opinion. So many other movies really try to ape the native style of a specific sub-genre, but ultimately fail because of either a lack of knowledge of that sub-genre or an overwhelming undying passion for the source material that they bludgeon the viewer with style over substance. This film is a nice balance of both style and substance.

Toby Jones, a favorite character actor of mine, plays a respected English sound designer/editor, Gilderoy, who is summoned to work on a new film by a celebrated Italian filmmaker, Santini. The producer of the movie, Francesco, is beleaguered by his own issues and continually takes those issues out on Gilderoy,while trying to embrace his newest employee’s quirks. Gilderoy is rather shy and some might think eccentric, considering that he primarily associates with noises and not people.

The atmosphere throughout starts off rather surreal, and in a great way parallels the sense of isolation that Gilderoy is seemingly feeling as he first arrives. He reads letters from his mother who fills him in on the latest news from home. Those letters play a really cool and important role later in the movie, as they were once the anchors that grounded him and later become more of a signifier of his slow descent into turmoil.

Another great element of this film is how the viewer is asked to construct the movie based on the sounds we hear, as well as the dialogue recorded for the movie. There are some really gruesome sounds and dialogue that paints a vivid picture for the viewer, and holy shit, I wish I could see what Gilderoy sees. But all that he sees is what seems to help him unravel.  And watching this guy get shit on and second-guessed throughout his process of creating his art is rather cringe-inducing at times, but sometimes it’s just a joy to watch because of Toby Jones. It’s as if he gives these poor bastards that he plays a sense of dignity not otherwise afforded.

This movie has nary a drop of blood shed, but the fun in the journey the audience takes is in how Gilderoy slowly unravels as he loses not only creative control of his life, but his life in general, because his art is his life.

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