Writer-director Alex Noyer’s first feature is an expansion of his 2018 short Conductor – and evidently came to its current title, presumably an intentional echo of Sound of Metal, late in production. Like Sound of Metal, it’s about a musician with hearing loss issues … though it forms a distorted, disturbing mirror image of that life-affirming drama. Composer Alexis Reeves (Jasmin Savoy Brown) has a complex, traumatic origin story – deaf after an accident, she regained her hearing after witnessing her father murdering her mother and intervening with a mallet, the firsts sounds she heard being the blows she rained down on her father’s head. As an adult, she hears normally for the most part, but has occasional spells of traumatic deafness and is also forever trying to recreate the hallucinatory impact of her childhood experience – sounds of violence trigger trippy spells – as part of an ongoing musical/murder project she is conducting in a garaged RV that’s all she has left of her family heritage.
Alexis initially has the assistance and support of her best friend Marie (Lili Simmons), who helps her get audio recordings of a dominatrix whipping a client – but she knows when to leave Marie out of her increasingly unethical activities, which include electrocuting a tenor (David Gironda Jr) to get the most out of his high notes and drugging a harpist (Tara Elizabeth Cho) so she shreds her fingers on razorstrings. A cop (Tessa Munro) determines that there’s a serial killer at work, but Marie – who is distracted by her slightly smarmy gittish new boyfriend Duke (James Jagger) – can’t believe it’s her best friend, which leads to a gruesome if ambiguous final performance on the beach. Brown, in a this-woman-is-a-star! turn, brings a lot to the lead role, making Alexis’ insane journey credible and affecting even as some of the wilder ideas in the film verge on Dr Phibes territory with a succession of music-themed horrible murders.