Sommerleigh Pollonias, Horror Head Writer
This October I decided to watch and review some of those great horror movies (31 to be exact) that I missed on their initial release. And for Part 8 of my series of the 31 OF THE BEST HORROR MOVIES YOU (MAY HAVE) MISSED we will be checking out Giallo-inspired horror flick Berberian Sound Studio. Let’s get to it:
Day 8 of 31: Berberian Sound Studio (2012)
Director: Peter Strickland
Starring: Tony Jones, Antonio Mancino, Guido Adorni
IMDb Trivia: The title of the fictional studio refers to Cathy Berberian, the US soprano who married Luciano Berio, a pioneer of electronic music and a key influence on Strickland’s film.
Plot: A sound engineer’s work for an Italian horror studio becomes a terrifying case of life imitating art.
Review: When we think of our favourite films our minds tend to playback our favourite scenes and moments. The visuals are what tend to stick with you, but what would our favourite movies be without sound?
The score, the soundtrack and the sound effects and design tend to play second fiddle to our memories, and I for one never really give them the attention they so rightfully deserve, especially when it comes to horror. But what would films like The Shining, Suspiria, hell, even Friday the 13th be without their iconic sound design? This is the angle writer/director Peter Strickland chose to take for his directorial debut Berberian Sound Studio, a film that functions as a wonderfully creepy homage to not just Italian giallo horror but to the importance of sound in the world of horror movies.
I highly recommend watching this one with your headset on to truly appreciate what this movie is (successfully) trying to achieve. The click of a recorder, watermelons being smashed (which eerily sounds like someone being hacked to death), and even the subtle sound of a spider crawling across someone’s arm, all sounds you probably would never usually notice will resonate in your mind in the same way A Quiet Place made us aware of the importance of such things. The film also looks quite good. The colour hues invoke classics like Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist III, and the costume design is also spot on.
Toby Jones (Harry Potter, Captain America) is perfectly cast as the introverted British sound engineer Gilderoy who is hired by an Italian director named Santini (Antonio Mancino) to put the post-production touches on his “masterpiece” (“don’t call it a horror film” Santini says to Gilderoy). But the sheepish Brit feels out of his element amongst the machismo and stylish Italians that surround him. He’s also never worked on a horror movie before (sorry Santini) and this is where things start to take a turn for him as the sounds he creates and what they’re supposed to represent start to affect him in irreparable ways.
While watching (and listening intently) to Berberian I couldn’t help think back to the one horror movie that scarred me so badly, it took me decades before I decided to watch it again, The Omen. I always knew the reason this movie terrified me the way it did wasn’t because of the visuals or the story (although that ending didn’t do me any favours), but it was that theme “Ave Satani” by Jerry Goldsmith. The composition went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score which tells me two things: one, it was a fantastically crafted theme song, and two, I wasn’t the only one deeply affected by this haunting tribute to evil.
This is what Berberian Sound Studio is all about—the integral part sound plays on our emotions, specifically fear and anxiety. If you listen to any kind of music for long enough it can affect your outward actions as well. It’s why most sports teams and athletes play music to hype them up before a game or a match. I’m amazed in a world where films like the aforementioned A Quiet Place and Don’t Breathe has done so well, this one somehow managed to fly under the radar as much as it did. Yes, it’s not your typical high octane horror movie and it most certainly won’t appeal to casual viewers, but for those of you who collect movie soundtracks and enjoy reviewing the score as much as you do the film itself, this is most definitely the kind of movie you’ll enjoy watching and, most importantly, listening to.
Sommer’s Score: 7 out of 10
You can check out Part 7 of my 31 Days List Willow Creek below along with my review of Giallo-inspired horror The Last Matinee:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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