Studio: Orion Pictures
Director: Jenna Mattison
Writer: Jenna Mattison
Producer: Michelle Weisler, Jenna Mattison
Stars: Rose McGowan, Michael Eklund, Richard Gunn, Stephen McHattie, Christopher Lloyd
A paranormal activity debunker finds her skepticism wavering when she investigates strange sounds in an abandoned subway tunnel.
Kelly Johansen has “spent (her) entire career proving” ghosts aren’t real. As skeptical as she is of the supernatural, I’m equally skeptical someone can make a “career” out of debunking paranormal activity, particularly when Kelly’s primary platform involves vomiting hashtags via tweet to only 10,000 followers. Nevertheless, here we are with the setup for “The Sound.”
Kelly’s latest case calls her to Toronto to investigate Lower Bay Station. An asylum inmate wandered into the underground tunnel in 1966 to commit suicide by subway train. The now vacant station has reportedly remained haunted ever since. Kelly is confident her Specs and Tucker audio apparatus will prove, just as it always does, that tactile sound waves, not spirits, are to blame for inducing hysteric hallucinations. But when she starts experiencing strange visions firsthand, Kelly descends into a dark mystery that may make a believer out of her after all.
“The Sound” has all the basic filmic architecture erected for atmosphere, e.g. a dimly-lit subterranean setting, eerie echoes, muted music, and actors peering into shadows with concerned looks on their faces. But mood never materializes because this supposed spookiness has no soul. Imagery excessively occupies itself with drab darkness while largely silent scenes wait for something, anything, to finally stir that isn’t simply Rose McGowan casually exercising her eyes over graffiti on a concrete wall.
Whenever anyone does walk or talk, they do both as though they just stumbled in from a draining dentist visit, with mouths still numb from novocaine. “Slow” doesn’t come close to sufficing as an adjective. “The Sound” has all the urgency of a snail on a sloth swimming through salt water taffy. Momentum suffers immensely from this super sleepy energy.
In keeping with that attitude, Rose McGowan sleepwalks through her dreary performance of a pretty passionless personality. The film futilely hopes that her single pre-Toronto scene with her fiancé, played by an actor swallowed whole by an absence of chemistry or charisma, and quick phone call with an unseen mother are enough to connect her as a character. McGowan’s blank face echoes the viewer’s boredom, or perhaps reflects hers, as Kelly stagnates into a hollow vessel facilitating dribbles of plot progression with little by way of emotional engagement.
There are no small parts, except in “The Sound,” where veteran names Christopher Lloyd and Stephen McHattie are fired and forgotten from a limp gun totaling a few short minutes of screen time. Lloyd laughably receives prominent placement on the artwork despite appearing in an almost entirely irrelevant role. McHattie wrings more from his meager material, yet is equally underappreciated by the movie. Choose the wrong times to indulge in deserved yawns and you run the risk of never seeing either actor.
Speaking of blink-and-you’ll-miss-him actors, Pat Mastroianni thanklessly slips in as “Taxi Driver 2.” It’s always great for longtime “Degrassi” fans to see ‘Joey Jeremiah,’ except in a film that never shows his face from the front.
Deficient in scares as well as substantial food for thought, Jenna Mattison’s thin script is additionally harangued by plain dialogue on the occasions when it is vocal. “What are you doing here?” is predictably met by “I could ask you the same thing.” A jump from an unexpected hand on the shoulder comes with an apologetic “I didn’t mean to scare you.” Formulaically flat construction underneath every element makes for a terribly dull experience that only grows more so as the movie wears on.
Seemingly made for someone who has never seen a slow-burn haunter before, “The Sound” loads for bear with well-worn tropes like a dirty children’s doll as a memory-sparking touchstone, flashbacks revealing an identity crisis, and an abandoned asylum. Hitch that wagon to a bizarrely unsteady camera, where it looks like the operator regularly shifts his/her seat while shooting, bland production design, and an even blander story, one wonders exactly where an audience is meant to find entertainment value. If “The Sound” could make one of its own, it would be a woof because the movie is a dog.
Review Score: 20