When an indie filmmaker sets out to make a flick, he/she goes into it with the knowledge that their resources are only going to allow so much of their vision to be brought to life; like Harry Callahan says, “a man’s got to know his limitations“. Still, it never ceases to amaze me what some of these talented folks can come up with, substituting a little creativity and a lot of passion for good old fashioned greenbacks to make something impressive on a shoestring budget.
The Holy Sound is a nice little flick by indie filmmaker Nicholas Wagner, shot for a tiny amount of money and just long enough to be considered a feature.
Our story centers around Rory, Parker, and Sam, three teens somewhere in Small Town, U.S.A. Rory is an aspiring writer, quick-witted and fearless, although he seems to prefer to squander his intellect on being a general pain-in-the-ass. Sam is his quiet, nerdy friend; you know the type (hell, some of us were the type): Dungeons and Dragons freak, glasses, backpack, full of useless knowledge. Sam also has a strong religious faith that Rory just can’t understand. Finally, we have Parker; pretty girl with an attitude, she’s already learned how to use the local boys to get what she wants, manipulative and coy, but with a history; her relationship with her father is visibly strained, and it’s gotta have something to do with the hinted at missing mom; that’s left for us to decide. Rory, in his meanderings, has run across something in the woods near town, deep in a cave; a pillar of stone that emits a sound that generates a euphoric effect…a damned strong euphoric effect; enough to have the addictive qualities of a powerful narcotic. Finding this high far better than any created by any of their previous drugs of choice, Rory brings Parker to the cave, sharing the experience with her, and re-igniting an old spark between them in the bargain; to his chagrin, however, it’s only in the presence of “the sound”.
Days pass, and in their visits to the cave, they come to find that “the sound” is fading; the only way for it to keep working is from blood…and both of them find themselves willing to give for the feeling. However, as the addiction grows stronger, Rory is able to realize even through the bliss of “the sound” that Parker is using him, just as she uses everyone else…and her own obsessive dependence will cause her to use far more than her wiles and the favors of others to get what she wants…and what is demanded by “the sound”. Why not? In the worldview of her tortured soul, “everything you love will go away“…
I found this little movie pretty darned provocative; Wagner’s script was very strong (as it has to be, for a microbudget film to be worth a damn), combining a very realistic look at disenchanted teens blended with an almost Lovecraftian force capitalizing on their youth and vulnerability to further its own dark agenda. The atmosphere was very bleak and hopeless, strengthening the relatability for we the audience to mental states and attitudes of the characters onscreen. The dialogue is impressive, and the relationships between the characters are relatable and believable; all of us have known some of the folks in this flick. The acting, while a little stilted and shaky at times, is still very good for a production of this kind, and I feel that everyone in the film does quite well, especially considering that most of them were probably holding down day jobs whilst filming. There aren’t really any special visuals to speak of, although a couple of offscreen happenings result in the spilling of some of the most realistic stage blood I’ve seen in any film. I have to mention the sound design; most particularly, there are times you see the characters not speaking, but you hear them speaking; this voice-over effect is often quite loud. In the beginning, I took this to be merely limitations on the equipment that was available to the filmmakers, but as the film went on, I found this factor added to the surreal atmosphere of the story. Coupled with the very apropros music (and hauntingly attractive yet sinister “sound” itself), this added to the overall experience quite nicely.
If I had to come up with any complaints, the main one would be that I never saw how Rory and Parker determine that they need to bleed on the stones in the cave to make the sound work, but that’s a petty gripe; it doesn’t serve to cheapen the film. Also, the ending is a little contrived; it just struck me as a bit too cut-and-dried. Although I believe I understand what Wagner was shooting for with this, I personally think that the film would have been a bit more powerful had it ended two or three minutes earlier.
So that’s it, folks; I enjoyed the movie; if it gets picked up for distribution, I’ll buy a copy. For the purposes of reviewing it for you Fellow Fans out there, I’ll say that if you’re looking for a bloody slash-fest or visually-charged Paranormal Activity-esque film, you should give this one a pass. On the other hand, if films like Yellowbrickroad, The Wicker Man, or Picnic At Hanging Rock appeal to you, and you can dig a flick that’s high on atmosphere and succeeds on levels of depth that your average horror flick ignores, you should definitely give this one a chance.
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