Berberian Sound Studio isn’t directed by Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, but it may as well be. His influence is draped lovingly all over the British film:
• A projectionist seen only by his hands dons black gloves — the requisite accessory for many a murderer in the director’s giallo efforts.
• The movie within the movie takes place at an academy where witchcraft is practiced — a supernatural setting shared by Argento’s 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria.
• In the same movie within the movie, there is talk of ancient texts of evil, which brings to mind not only Suspiria, but the other two films in the trilogy, 1980’s Inferno and 2007’s The Mother of Tears.
• Suzy Kendall, star of 1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, makes a cameo as “Special Guest Screamer.”
• Finally, for those not acclimated to the atmosphere, a little patience is asked.
It’s horror as art as horror, and Berberian Sound Studio plays Friday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
The titular site in Italy is where UK sound engineer Gilderoy (Toby Jones, The Hunger Games) travels to work on a horror film — his first in the genre. His gift is creating inventive aural effects to accompany the vicious acts onscreen; heads of lettuce are stabbed in lieu of real torsos, water on a hot pan represents a red-hot poker inserted into … well, you’ll see.
The Italians find the quiet, timid Gilderoy disrespectful and unprofessional. Their unfair treatment coupled with homesickness slowly sends him out of his mind.
Writer/director Peter Strickland’s depiction of that descent into madness is what makes Berberian Sound Studio so absorbing. Whereas similar movies lean on images to show one’s slide into insanity, Strickland plays with sound so much that what one hears is equally important, if not more, than what one sees. Undefinable cues burrow into your brain, some courtesy of the score by indie electronic band Broadcast, whose Warp Records base seems tailor-made for Berberian’s sensibilities.
Its unsettling veneer will rattle a few teeth, but its open ending will ruffle more feathers.
For a double feature of high-minded horror at OKCMOA, screening in between showings of Berberian Sound Studio is Room 237. The
critically acclaimed documentary explores numerous conspiracy theories
surrounding a terror classic: Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 Stephen King
adaptation, The Shining.
involve everything from the Holocaust to the Apollo 11 moon landing,
and the more outlandish they get, the more fascinating Room 237 becomes.
Director Rodney Ascher doesn’t make fun of his very serious subjects;
he simply lets them speak, leaving the interpretation — fittingly enough
— up to you. —Rod Lott