By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, and James Jagger
Written & directed by Alex Noyer
When it comes to killers, the question second only to, “Why do they kill?” is, “Do they like it?” This desire to understand the relationship between psychopathy and sadism is explored in many horror films, which allow the audience to get close to the killer. SOUND OF VIOLENCE toys with these ideas too, but with some inconsistencies in character and tone.
The film begins with Alexis as a child (played by Kamia Benge). She is deaf, and her abusive father has no patience to deal with what he sees as an inconvenience, rather than his child. One especially traumatic night leaves Alexis all alone, but this night also somehow brings back her hearing. Alexis’s hearing is not as simple as mere auditory sensation; she can see certain sounds. Her synesthesia is not relegated to any old sounds, mind you, and she can only see the sounds of violence and pain. As an adult (played by Jasmin Savoy Brown), Alexis becomes an audio artist and music teacher, sharing with her students the ways that sounds interact with thoughts and feelings. She and her roommate, Marie (Lili Simmons) go to observe and record a dominatrix at work, which brings back Alexis’s ability to see the sounds of violence again, and they turn her on. Or, at least that is what seems to be happening.
Though SOUND OF VIOLENCE has the flashback to that one night of Alexis’s childhood for background, it does very little to fill in the blanks of the rest of her life. Had she not seen these sounds since childhood, or has this been a constant in her life all along? Is she escalating her use of violent sounds in her art, or is this any other normal day for her? Alexis also seems to have some sort of sexual reaction to seeing the sounds, and may or may not be addicted to them, but these are shown in performance in the moment, and never explored in the story or plot. Her character arc and the reasons for her acceleration into killing are not clear here, and take a back seat to the disjointed gore setpieces Alexis creates to capture her sounds. Alexis and her relationship with violence are, as the title suggests, the central focus of the film, and having weak character development at the center leaves the whole film feeling scattered.
To give credit where it is due, these isolated acts of aural brutality are awfully gory and delightfully twisted. Alexis lets her creativity fly in trying to get the most pain she can record, in any way that she can record it. Had SOUND OF VIOLENCE leaned in harder to its campy, exploitative side instead of trying so hard to play up the character-driven drama aspect, the film might have been more of a fun romp through that vat of viscera. However, the carnage, as entertaining as it is, cannot carry this film alone. Both Brown and Simmons do the best with what they are given and have endearing chemistry on screen, but limp writing and disjointed character development ultimately stop SOUND OF VIOLENCE from settling into its own groove.
SOUND OF VIOLENCE is now available on streaming services from Gravitas Ventures.