Millennials! Baby boomers! Cinema’s just only catching up on this trove of terror and the latest one is Tone-Deaf.
Olive (Silicon’s Valley’s Amanda Crew), taking the weekend at an AirBnB run by the unnerving Harvey (Robert Patrick), soon realises that there’s folks well out of her city limits who have it out for our yuppie.
Nay a character failing to register on the scale of Instagram-tragic to (implicit) dyed in the wool Trump voter (save of course the communal living activities of a select few for whom this film has a special disdain), there’s a strange dissonance herein in a feature that is otherwise anything but subtle. Neglecting any serious commentary on modern America through rare a focus on any actual city-country or generational divide, it’s but a stated, intendedly layered aside and effectively pretextual basis for what is overwhelmingly preoccupied with dispensing repetitive blows to the head and a piling body count.
The faces-to-camera where characters spell out their apparent motivations bleeding much of the tension hitherto established, a superbly well-staged encounter on a set of stairs is only exceeded by the quality of the sound design; the blaring audio cues here heralding a sense of dread better than much else that elapses.
To note, the brief dream sequences, both the LSD induced haze and that centred on Patrick’s psycho, exhibit a level of production design and creativity unequalled throughout the rest of the runtime and together are joys to behold.
Concluding with a Shining/Crimson Peak-level happenstance, the title Tone-Deaf, a wry reference to one character’s particular ability (or lack thereof), is a foreseeable riposte to the detractors who would label this film such. Alternating near-instantly between dread and the quippy, tension-draining injections characteristic of the MCU’s showreel, the about turns don’t generally enliven proceedings; instead underlining an entertaining if mismatched approach to it’s material.
Tone-Deaf screened as part of the Sydney Underground Film Festival