Masters of Horror: Sounds Like (TV)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson makes fantastic movies, the kind you don’t soon forget about. Session 9 was the very definition of a groundswell film, one which attracted more and more fans as the years go by, and The Machinist is haunting from beginning to end, filled with disturbing characters and nightmarish visuals. The only problem I have with Anderson’s films? They’re not really the kinds of films you want to revisit very often, as they’re usually quite depressing.
Though one might hold out hope that his first Masters entry would be something a bit different, such is not the case. Not that it’s any kind of detriment to the film in any way, indeed I think “Sounds Like” is the best of the second series so far, but I doubt you’re going to want to watch it again anytime soon after the credits roll.
The story revolves around Larry Pearce (Bauer), a supervisor for a software company who is cursed with seemingly superhuman hearing. Day in and day out he monitors the tech support calls for his company, making sure no one is slacking off or taking too long on their support issues. It’s a good job, though most of those under him see Larry as a bit of tyrant thanks his ability to hear anything they do, whether they’re on the phone or not.
Larry’s home life is less than ideal, as well. He has his wife (Margolis) are still dealing with the loss of their only son from a year or so earlier. He was very young when he passed, succumbing to a very rare heart condition that only came to their attention when Larry heard the boy’s heart beating irregularly. There’s some guilt for you. Since this tragic loss, Larry’s been more withdrawn than usual and his grip on reality is slipping away day by day.
As his tension grows so does his hearing, which only feeds more tension, and there are several times throughout the episode that he looks ready to snap. Imagine the sound of water dripping from a faucet being so loud you could hear it from the other side of the house. Or the squealing of rodentia behind your walls being deafeningly loud. Chances are you grip on reality would be on the loose side, as well.
He comes across a new employee at work who seems to have an especially empathetic attitude towards his customers and decides to try and befriend him. An innocent lunch out by the pond (“I come here for the quiet”) takes a bad turn when Larry is carried away giving fatherly advice, which leads to even more tension around the office and once brings Larry to the verge of snapping. His wife giving him the happy news that she’s pregnant again is the breaking point, however, and a solution to his various problems is discovered, the results will haunt him far more than he thought possible.
The reasons “Sounds Like” is such a memorable episode are legion, everything from the fantastic performance turned in by Bauer and Margolis to the subtle way Anderson interjected situations in the calls Larry’s listening in on that reflect what’s happening in his life, but what you’ll likely pay a lot of attention to during the episode are the sounds, both musical and otherwise.
Of course because the lead character has supernatural hearing, there are a lot of exaggerated sounds from everyday life that you could easily see driving someone mad if they were to hear them all the time, but in conjunction with the music throughout, which is some of the most haunting and effective of any Masters entry yet, a nightmarish soundscape is created. Anderson understands that if you’re going to make an episode focused on aural sensations, you’d damn well better provide a powerful soundtrack to back it all up with. Not that you’ll have much choice because it’s hard to ignore, but be sure to pay attention to when you get a chance to see it. Chances are it’ll make the experience that much more enjoyable.
As good as it is, though, “Sounds Like” is not without it’s faults; there are some glaringly large logic gaps that occur here and there, none of which I want to give you any details on for risk of spoiling anything, but you’ll know them when they happen. There’s also a frustrating lack of any sense of the passage of time, be it within the episode itself or just trying tp determine how long it’s been since Larry’s son passed away. An issue of expectation comes into it, too, as I had stated previously there was some hope that Anderson might take a slightly less depressing story for his entry just to change things up a bit. I can easily argue against that one myself, though, because the man really knows how to work that particular sub-genre of horror.
The verdict? “Sounds Like” is the best of the season so far and very well may come down as the best of both seasons simply because of its ability to affect different viewers different ways. The incredibly realistic performances and haunting soundtrack will sit with you for a long time afterwords and though not as gory as, say, “The Damned Thing”, there are also some stomach-churning visuals within that certainly please those of you looking for a visceral trill or two. Don’t miss this one when it airs on Friday the 17th, folks, it could be the one you’ve been waiting for.
4 1/2 out of 5
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