Berberian Sound Studio

(GB, 2012, 94 mins)
In English and Italian
CAST Toby Jones, Tatma Mohamed, Cosimo Fusco, Eugenia Caruso, Antonio Mancino


Toby Jones may not be a household name, but as Michael Nordine labeled him in Criticwire, he is a “household face”—one of those actors you see in everything, yet rarely see in a juicy lead role. Well, that isn’t the case in Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio, wherein Jones plays Gilderoy, a sound mixer invited to work on a film in Italy. He’s a socially reserved, through-and-through mama’s boy used to working on quaint little British documentaries. Unbeknownst to him, his new assignment turns out to be a horror film and Gilderoy is unexpectedly and unwillingly thrown into a world of sadistic violence, gore and cruelty. His tolerance of this grotesque universe is tested, as he adds sound effects to every stabbing and decapitation, and a great many other violent actions in need of aural punctuation. As he continues to work on the film, Gilderoy becomes increasingly alienated from reality. His mental state slowly deteriorates, as Strickland—whose masterful Katalin Varga was a horror story of another stripe—expertly crafts a psychological thriller relying on the power of suggestion rather than graphic violence.

At once homage and send-up of the classic Giallo films of the 70s by the likes of Mario Bava and Dario Argento, Berberian Sound Studio is tense, unsettling and darkly funny. A must see for horror film buffs and cinephiles alike—much like Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, this is a master-class on the relationship between sound and image.

"Utterly distinctive and all but unclassifiable, a musique concrète nightmare, a psycho-metaphysical implosion of anxiety, with strange-tasting traces of black comedy and movie-buff riffs. It is seriously weird and seriously good." Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

"A delicately detailed immersion into the world of Z-grade Italian horror cinema that ultimately may or may not be a horror film itself, Peter Strickland’s “Berberian Sound Studio” is a tense, teasing triumph." Guy Lodge, Variety

"The creepiness builds with symphonic precision until reality truly is indistinguishable from fantasy." 4 stars. Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York