As a young girl Alexis survives a gruesome fate by killing her would be assailant. Though previously deaf, in that moment she regains her hearing, and develops a twisted form of synesthesia, whereby she sees a gorgeous explosion of colors in response to hearing sounds caused by violence to a human body.
Cue a lifetime of seeking to create the original experience through experimental “music.” Alexis plays it tame at first, achieving recordings from consenting participants, but soon begins showing signs that she may start losing her hearing again and thus amps up her endeavors. What follows is a killing spree with creative music-themed methods of murder, on par with films like Saw and The Purge.
For those who are unfamiliar, synesthesia is a neurological condition where there is a cross wiring of senses. Synesthetes, or those who experience synesthesia, can hear colors, feel sounds or taste shapes. It’s estimated that between 1% – 25% of the population actually experiences some form or another, with the difficulty in diagnosing some varieties accounting for the difference. If you’re curious about what it might look like in real life and the science behind it, I have included a TedMed video at the end from a woman who is a synesthete and a trained musician.
The phenomenon of synesthesia is absolutely fascinating, and using it in a horror film is brilliant. The scenes where Alexis is successful in her grisly goal are breathtaking, captured with a visually arresting slow eruption of dazzling colors and shapes. The film mixes sound with visuals cleverly, whereby the sounds of violence fade for the viewer and are replaced with lulling ambient tunes, capturing Alexis’ feelings of euphoria more so than what she is hearing. As a viewer these scenes are engrossing, and leave you wanting more… just like Alexis.
Placing us in Alexis’ shoes is ingenious, and most of the fun of the film is derived from the expectation of the next death scene. And oh boy, are there some death scenes. No two are alike, with a personal favorite being the Rube Goldberg-like death machine that seems like a nightmare version of something David Burns might create. For those that grit their teeth, a wild smile spreading as they lean in closer to gory scenes, this is the perfect film. The more intense the violence is, the bigger the payoff as Alexis’ intensity of synesthesia matches the intensity of trauma inflicted on human bodies.
Alexis’ closest confidant is her best friend Marie, which she shares a deep and ultimately complex relationship with. Marie is by her side through think or thin, and even assists in some of Alexis’ tamer (read: non-murder) music exploits. It’s frustrating at times to see how blind Marie is when it comes to Alexis, but her level of protection of and loyalty to Alexis feels real to life, as we justify or ignore the monster in those we love. Jasmine Savoy Brown and Lili Simmons do a fantastic job of bringing to life this relationship, where even simple glances reveal so much of what lurks under the surface.
The only part of the film that felt incongruous is a subplot involving a police detective and her team that are investigating Alexis’ murders. The concept is interesting, but the execution feels more at home in a TV cop procedural drama than horror movie, even toting a tough-talking yet beautiful detective. The concept does add more pressure to the sense of urgency in Alexis achieving her final masterpiece, and seeing the murders from a different perspective as the atrocities they are adds to the overall level of horror. However, the detective side story doesn’t end up in adding anything to the story (without spoiling anything), and if it were removed nothing would really change. It would have been nice to see more of a cat and mouse scenario with Detective Fuentes and Alexis, or at least if the side plot had more involvement in how the story ends.
Overall, I enjoyed the film. The greatest sin a horror movie can commit is the lack of originality, and though Sound of Violence has its flaws, it is certainly original. Mix that with stunning visuals, superb gore, and compelling characters and you are in for a good night of horror!