Sound is a very powerful tool. This powerful entity engulfs the entire run time of Berberian Sound Studio, serving as a gateway to paranoia, fear and enveloping madness. This is one slow burn horror/thriller that definitely buries itself deep in your mind, and does so with incredible ease.
The story is one of incredible simplicity, but it's how it unfolds that is the main draw of the movie. In the 70's, a sound engineer travels to Italy to work on the sound effects for a new gruesome Italian horror movie called The Equestrian Vortex. The film they are making is filled with sex, satanism and violence against women perpetrated by The Goblin (surely a nod to Claudio Simonetti's prog rock legends). His nightmarish task soon begins to amplify his paranoia, and eventually forces him to confront his past.
The movie is an ode to madness, with many nods to the greats of Italian cinema (for example, a black gloved projectionist giving a sly nod to the murderers in many Giallo movies). Amazingly, the movie contains very little violence. There are descriptions of what is happening to characters in the movie they are working on, and this is accompanied by gruesome sound effects which only serve to accentuate the feeling of horror. Watermelons are smashed, celery is twisted and snapped, all to accompany sickening sounds of the violence in the movie, and even though you don't see any of the acts taking place, the sound still manages to sicken.
Unfortunately, the film does unravel at the end, the main character spiraling into a madness that many of his co-workers have been displaying since the opening minutes of the movie. The violence the main character has been creating with his sound effects, begins to creep into real life. Or does it?
The final act was incredibly confusing, becoming a psychedelic mess with increasingly louder sound. It is so out there, weird and frightening at the same time, but I feel it just didn't gel with the suppressed feeling of what went before, but then again, this could be seen as a homage to many Giallo movies, with the main character plunging into a world of madness and despair.
If you are a fan of slow burn horror, then Berberian Sound Studio is most certainly worth a look, and even though the ending makes little sense (to me at least) it is a powerful journey about the power of one of the most overlooked aspects of cinema. The sound, and the madness it creates.