Sound of Silence

Sound of Silence (2023)

“Three directors from Turin made this film. First of all, we must say the movie emphasises its strong theatrical structure. The location and set design are like stages, except for three scenes…”

These are the first words that we hear on the old, wood-framed wireless on which Peter Wilson (Peter Stephen Wolmarans) has been tinkering away in the attic while his wife Margherita (Sandra Pizzullo) cooks downstairs. Soon this antique radio will prove to be haunted – a cursed conduit for angry spirits from the past – but we know already that there is something uncanny afoot, as the movie being described by the audible on-air critic seems in fact to be, impossibly, the very film that we are also watching. For Sound of Silence has three directors from Turin – Alessandro Antonaci, Stefano Mandalà, Daniel Lascar, known collectively as T3 – and a limited number of locations, with most of the action unfolding in the Wilsons’ house in Italy. 

After the ghosts that Peter has accidentally conjured leave him hospitalised and his wife bruised and battered in what the attending doctor believes is a case of domestic violence, their adult daughter Emma (Penelope Sangiorgi) – a singer struggling to find her voice – flies over from New York with her boyfriend Seba (Rocco Marazzita) to the town of her childhood. Staying, against her mother’s advice, in the family home, Emma will quickly encounter a ghostly trio, and have to work out which one is the danger, and how to survive the night, even as Seba, without quite knowing what is possessing him, will become the biggest threat to Emma. For through this radio, tuned to the past, dysfunction and abuse echo down the ages.

Where Lights Out – both David Sandberg’s 2013 short and 2016 feature of the same name – involved a supernatural entity that thrived in the dark and vanished whenever the light was switched on, Sound Of Silence – also expanded from a short (made in 2020) – is the opposite. For it boasts revenants who manifest not so much in shadows as in noise, at first becoming visible and tangible only when the old radio is on, and vanishing the moment it is switched off. Eventually these ghosts will phase into reality when summoned by any sound, only to disappear again into the silence – and so T3’s feature draws a great deal of attention to its own acoustic design, as music, alarms and even the zapping of an electric fly killer conjure a spookily spectral family into the present. Accordingly the film is like Fede Álvarez’s Don’t Breathe (2016) and John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (2018), except with sound-sensitive phantoms in the place of a blind rapist or alien creatures.  

As Emma is forced to tiptoe through this nightmarish scenario, the chief antagonist finds another, more straightforwardly physical way, beyond the sonic waves, to get close to her, turning into something like a more conventional slasher/strangler – with one hell of an Achilles’ heel. It will not be long before the singer will switch from keeping quiet to using sound itself – her own natural medium – against an aggressive assailant for whom noise is as much venom as vehicle. 

It is a decent ghost story, shot through with a history of silence, and unusually amplifying the things that go bump in the night. Yet by the end all the cat and mouse, all the creeping about upstairs and downstairs in this haunted house, becomes somewhat repetitive and overstretched. Meanwhile a coda, bearing little obvious connection to the principal narrative besides its inclusion of a(nother, unrelated) haunted artifact, feels tacked on – unsound, even – unless we are to expect a The Conjuring-style trilogy.

strap: Alessandro Antonaci, Stefano Mandalà & Daniel Lascar’s misophonic ghost story sends a history of domestic violence echoing across the airwaves

© Anton Bitel