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Berberian Sound Studio (2013)

tomatometer

83

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 90
Fresh: 75 | Rotten: 15

Its reach may exceed its grasp, but with Berberian Sound Studio, director Peter Strickland assembles a suitably twisted, creepy tribute to the Italian Giallo horror movies of the '70s that benefits from a strong central performance by Toby Jones.

88

Average Rating: 7.1/10
Critic Reviews: 24
Fresh: 21 | Rotten: 3

Its reach may exceed its grasp, but with Berberian Sound Studio, director Peter Strickland assembles a suitably twisted, creepy tribute to the Italian Giallo horror movies of the '70s that benefits from a strong central performance by Toby Jones.

audience

53

liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 2,518

My Rating

Movie Info

In the 1970s, a British sound technician is brought to Italy to work on the sound effects for a gruesome horror film. His nightmarish task slowly takes over his psyche, driving him to confront his own past. Berberian Sound Studio is many things: an anti-horror film, a stylistic tour de force, and a dream of cinema. As such, it offers a kind of pleasure that is rare in films, while recreating in a highly original way the pleasures of Italian horror cinema. (c) IFC

Unrated,

Horror

Peter Strickland

Dec 10, 2013

$28.6k

IFC Films - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (90) | Top Critics (24) | Fresh (75) | Rotten (15) | DVD (3)

While it's a loving homage to movies like Dario Argento's Suspiria and is crafted with tons of style, it leaves out one key ingredient: being even remotely scary.

October 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Radishes, cabbages and melons meet horrific ends in Berberian Sound Studio, a down-the-earhole psychodrama where what you hear is more terrifying than what you see.

August 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Writer/director Peter Strickland intriguingly weaves into the story a movie-within-a-movie that we barely see, but we hear.

July 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A sometimes interesting, sometimes head-scratching movie that pays homage to the old ways of the sound mixing world and to the "giallo" genre of horror that was prominent in Italy during the 1970s.

June 21, 2013 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[It] not only exploits one of cinema's most important modes, it also attempts something more difficult: turning a genre movie into a work of art.

June 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A one-trick pony, but it's a reasonably cool trick.

June 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Berberian Sound Studio follows Hitchcock's doctrine fully: what information audiences fill in with their imagination is always more horrifying than anything that can be filmed

June 2, 2014 Full Review Source: Film School Rejects
Film School Rejects

If you're open to films that fearlessly twist the conventions, and that mine the language of sound and image for their own strange potential, you'll get a kick from this rivetingly inventive, abrasively un-British piece of nightmare cinema.

December 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Independent
Independent

Berberian Sound Studio refuses such a climax: it at once celebrates giallo and takes it apart, disassembling it like Derren Brown explaining an illusion.

December 31, 2013 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

This twisty psychological horror yarn from writer/director Peter Strickland is the best kind, one that is open to many interpretations but can be enjoyed on its own creepy and insinuating surface.

December 10, 2013 Full Review Source: Reeling Reviews
Reeling Reviews

A movie that may whisper dark secrets into your ears at night, when you're trying to forget it.

August 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

...stylishly creepy psycho-thriller that pays homage to the Italian horror scene of the '70s.

August 7, 2013 Full Review Source: Georgia Straight

For much of British director Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio, not much actually happens. But for the devoted cinephile, it's utterly entrancing.

August 2, 2013 Full Review Source: Montreal Gazette
Montreal Gazette

Ultimately, Berberian Sound Studio is just an exercise in meta -- a movie more about generating sensations than making sense -- but it's provocative and effective in the way it shows how a movie doesn't have to be "real" to be disturbing.

July 11, 2013 Full Review Source: The Dissolve
The Dissolve

Berberian Sound Studio is a film for critics. General public -- come at your own risk.

July 6, 2013 Full Review Source: tonymacklin.net
tonymacklin.net

It messes with your head in ways that is impressive, but it also seems too abstract for its own good at times. Its unsettling atmosphere and strong performances make Berberian Sound Studio one of the more distinct psychological thrillers out there.

June 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Examiner.com
Examiner.com

Regardless of what you call it, it's a highly accomplished, intelligent, and effective piece of work, perhaps the best genre film I've seen since The Innkeepers.

June 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Fans of Dario Argento and Mario Bava films take notice.

June 21, 2013 Full Review Source: Boston Herald
Boston Herald

"Berberian" fascinatingly lays bare the meticulous complexity of audio dubbing in the analog era.

June 20, 2013 Full Review Source: Oregonian
Oregonian

It wasn't until the movie was over that I realized it had pulled off the neat trick of creeping me out without showing even a single drop of blood.

June 20, 2013 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Audience Reviews for Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian Sound Studio is open to interpretation, that's the beauty of film, it can do that. Peter Strickland focuses his passion and obsession to both sound and old Italian horror films. Why the hell not. It works really well too, it's reminiscent of Gallio cinema without being a rip off and the attention to sound is impressive to say the least. It's definitely a film to get lost in, only then do I think you can really appreciate and enjoy. I watched it on my own in a dark room and thoroughly enjoyed it. Toby Jones was a great choice of protagonist too. It's nice to see a revisit to this kind of pace and content, it's like the 70's are back and I love that. It certainly goes far in proving that with horror films, the scare is in the sound.
November 21, 2013
SirPant

Super Reviewer

Total waste of one and a half hours. Made no sense whatsoever.
I don't mind weird or something that doesn't quite add up until the end, but when it's both those things and still doesn't have an explanation of some type, I get a bit annoyed!
August 24, 2013
romy861

Super Reviewer

This second feature from director Peter Strickland (following "Katalin Varga" in 2009) is certainly an interesting bag of mixed opinions. Some have claimed it to be a five star experience, while others simply didn't get it. I suppose it depends a lot on your approach beforehand but there's no mistaking that it's one of those film's where your left to make up your own mind.
An experienced British sound-engineer is hired to work on a low-budget Italian horror movie called "Equestrian Vortex". Throughout his work, he struggles with the language-barrier and constant exposure to horror movie images and finds himself drawn into a vortex all his own, as he begins to lose his grasp on reality.
The thing that strikes you most from this film when it opens is it's good sense of atmosphere. It possess an almost strange sepia tint, as if the proceedings have been desaturated. There's a permeating feeling dread and unease that courses through it as time, itself, seems to stroll by. Strickland is certainly in no rush to tell his story and he also abandons any conventional method in doing so; a good chunk of the dialogue is in Italian and there's a deliberate omission of subtitles. This may put some people off but it serves to create an understanding and affiliation with the loneliness and isolation of the protagonist, Gilderoy (played brilliantly by Toby Jones). Although deliberate, and an interesting method, I also found it somewhat frustrating. What's also very interesting is that the story takes shape in the sound that's provided for film's rather than the images. How many times have you ever seen a horror movie that relies solely on audio rather than visual? Cabbages are stabbed and plunged into water to provide the perfect accompanying sound of someone being stabbed or drowned. It's an interesting insight and the suggestion of horror is actually captured very well using this approach. When we do, eventually, see the images that have been getting dubbed, it throws the film into a completely new surrealistic direction that shares similarities with the mind-bending talents of David Lynch and his art imitating life theme of "Inland Empire" or "Mulholland Drive". Of course, thats where the similarity ends as Strickland doesn't have the ability to construct his story with any real meaning in the way that Lynch excels at. I'm no stranger to surreal cinema, in fact I love it but this leaned a little too far to self-indulgence for me.
Anyone familiar with the 'Giallo' horrors of Italian cinema during the 60's and 70's will, no doubt, take a lot more from this film than I did. That being said, there's no denying it's grasp on atmosphere and it's impressive ability to build tension. However, as our protagonist becomes increasingly withdrawn and descends in madness, we descend into obscurity without any real satisfying conclusion. For me, the film just ended. I was aware of it's nature and prepared for any subtext or symbolism that it might throw my way, but in the end, it didn't quite come together. I was hoping for a more satisfying conclusion.
It's certainly not to everyone's tastes. For some, it will bore; for others, it will confuse. However, if your open minded enough, it will draw you in. Basically, it's an art-house horror that can either be seen as pretentious clap trap or an astute homage. I find myself somewhere in between.
March 11, 2013
MrMarakai

Super Reviewer

A promising argument that goes nowhere. Unable to cope with ears nor my mind's eye.
January 22, 2013
pier007

Super Reviewer

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