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Berberian Sound Studio – 7

Director – Peter Strickland

Cast – Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco, Antonio Mancino, Fatma Mohamed, Guido Adorni, Salvatore LI Causi, Chiara D’Anna, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Eugenia Caruso, Lara Parmiani, Susanna Cappellaro

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

There were few 2013 films I was looking forward to more than Berberian Sound Studio, and that is because it has a storyline unlike any other. Sure to please the horror / giallo geek, this highly original flick centers on one of horror’s most important of atmospheric elements: sound. Toby Jones stars as Gilderoy, a talented and sought-after sound engineer who receives the offer of a lifetime when he is brought to Italy to work on a film by the famous Giancarlo Santini. The proper Englishman is out of his element in comparison to the rude and overbearing Italians he must work with, but his rudest awakening is finding out his talents will be used on a sleazy horror film. Unsure of his ability to cope with his uncomfortable situation, Gilderoy soon experiences his own personal horror as life imitates art.

Boy did this film excite me. These days the giallo film is pretty much dead and gone, and while Berberian Sound Studio is not a devout giallo film it sure does give giallo fans a taste of the films we have loved for decades. The story moves quickly and almost immediately sends Gilderoy into the the action, fear, and paranoia of working his first big job in a foreign country with one of his most admired directors. It is obvious that the middle aged Englishman is very much out of his element, and his inability to cope with his future actions will be a huge selling point for the conflict and horror in the film. Appalled that he is working on a “horror” film, he uses his self taught ingenuity to make grisly effects from the simplest of household objects as well as an array of fruits and vegetables. It truly was amazing to watch him do his work as it gave me a highly engaging perspective never before shown in the genre, with writer Peter Strickland saying himself that he wanted to “make a film where everything that is usually hidden in cinema, the mechanis of the film itself, is made visible. Berberian Sound Studio turns this on its head. Here, the film is out of view, and you can only see the mechanics behind it.”. This ingenius idea gives viewers an eye level view of the work behind one of horror’s biggest elements, sound, and while most of the film is such fun and games the horror insidiously manifests into a third act centering on psychological horror. Personally I wanted more horror in this film and felt that it aimed at pleasing the senses more than delivering horror. This is not a major gripe by any means as I really enjoyed the story, but it did leave me wanting a bit more in regards to the lingering horror that never hit as hard as I wanted it to.

Actress Lara Parmiani voicing the demon scene in one of the film’s most haunting sequences.

Peter Strickland also directs this film, and his direction is every much as good as his incredible story. From the get-go he immerses us into the set of the Santini film and leaves the viewer awestruck at the awesomeness going on before them. It truly was incredible to see Gilderoy do his work and provide the gruesome sounds behind the film’s beheadings, torture scenes, and murder sequences – all with superbly addicting editing that left me craving for more. Strickland’s atmosphere is fantastic and he does a great job at recreating the look of a dark and lowly 70s Italian film studio, and to compliment this we are exposed to an truly haunting musical score as well. Simply put, Strickland’s direction is all about the senses. Berberian Sound Studio is visually and aurally appealing, which aided in making up for some of the far stretches the story reaches for but fails to attain. Longtime supporting actor Toby Jones does a great job as the lead and is a fantastic choice for such a role. With only a few sequences of tangible horror written into the story I was very surprised at the level of horror provided by Strickland’s direction. He found numerous outlets for the horror to seep into the film, with my favorite being the spooky voiceover actresses portraying both the victims and the witches/demons. These scenes were more intense than I can attempt to describe, and not only gave me chills but brought me back to the 70s giallo flicks I miss so dearly.

Overall, Berberian Sound Studio is one of the most original horror films I have ever seen and one of the best of 2013. The horror is great and thanks to great writing and amazing direction this is one experience I highly suggest you check out.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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