As the first film I’ve seen in 2021’s SXSW Film Festival lineup, Sound of Violence has set an impossibly high bar for the type of content I’ll be expecting. This is a wildly outrageous, beautifully realized, and vibrant horror film that is razor-sharp smart around every corner. It’s all anchored by a stunning lead performance from Jasmin Savoy Brown, who immediately enters the badass female horror character hall of fame. It’s hard to believe this is director Alex Noyer’s feature film debut. The visuals are frequently stunning, and the kills are each their own separate, disturbing set-pieces.
After the brutal murder of her family causes deaf child Alexis (Jamin Savoy Brown) to regain her hearing, we flash forward to adult Alexis, who pursues a career in music. When her hearing starts to vanish once again, Alexis begins working hard on a masterpiece of sound she hopes will respark it for good. This drives her down a dangerous path as her experiments spiral wildly out of control. Alexis’s obsession with her female roommate, Marie (Lili Simmons), threatens to throw a wrench in her project.
There’s an impressive use of sound design, even at the beginning when just the vibrations tell their own story. The level of attention to detail in this feature is extremely important, as this film leans heavily on the musicality of it all. The concept of a beat being able to come from anywhere (and how every surface has its own tune) is well executed—not just in narrative, but in the soundtrack and noises. As the film preaches, beats are a language to tell stories. Pulling double-duty as both writer and director, Alex Noyer has a strong grasp on exactly the type of film he wants to make.
Alexis is haunted by the ghosts of her past, though she remains conflicted; each person she kills aides her hearing. Jasmin Savoy Brown plays all of this with an incredible level of authenticity. You feel for her even as she commits the most heinous acts. The movie does ultimately make a stance about Alexis, one way or another. A very clear rejection of her increasingly sadistic actions happens near the demented, jaw-dropping ending.
Sharing most scenes with Brown, Lili Simmons is equally good as her unknowing roommate, Marie. I wish their relationship had a tad more pizzazz and definition to it. A savvy LGBT audience will no doubt cling to the connection the two women share.
The kills themselves are glorious to behold, with echoes of Saw reverberating within. Thankfully, Sound of Violence never skimps on the gore, and each death feels wildly different from the last. The kills are graphic and creative. The twisty script never delves into the cause of Alexis’s miraculous hearing recovery, but it doesn’t need to either. I loved the performances, violence, and vitality here. I can see this quickly entering cult classic status, ready-made for an audience eager for unconventional horror. Ahead of SXSW, Gravitas Ventures picked up the film for release both in theaters and on demand May 21st. Listen close—Sound of Violence will be coming soon.