Although Sounds Like has its measure of shock, gore, and paranoia, the story's core is really a father (the amazing Chris Bauer) unable to get past the death of his son, and the grief-stricken couple who go through the very real stages of self-destruction.
The wife (underrated Laura Margolis) wants to move on, whereas the husband, a manager at a software call center, just wants his son back, and his extremely fine sense of hearing is what ignites the dissolution of a stable, small family, and a job where his perceptive ears allow him to sense when an employee is seconds away from losing it with a problem customer.
Brad Anderson's adaptation of Mike O'Driscoll's short story is one of the best episodes of the series because it has an extremely strong character for whom we maintain sympathy, even when he kills the last important person in his life, and heads off to work, hoping each day might be slightly better.
Anderson 's kind of a mini-master at gloom and psychological destruction. He burst onto the scene with the indie film Session 9 (2001), moved on to the grim The Machinist (2004), and in Sounds Like, he captures the intimacy of madness as it moves from slight irritations to twitchiness, and physical rot.
The story's secondary character, sound, was a major attraction for the director, and the sound designers have crafted a wonderful array of extreme effects that still maintain sonic ties to the actions that drive manager Larry Pearce crazy. Also important is the score by Anton Sanko (The Last Winter), which drifts between the dialogue and sound effects almost subliminally. Rage is conveyed through electronic textures and Glassian minimalism, but there's a few warm cues that cover Larry's forced flashbacks to his beloved moments with his son.
The colour schemes and sets are generally centered around matt primary colours, the compositions are sharp and elegant, and the use of macro lenses for the extreme close-ups are very pretty. Attila Szalay's cinematography is first-rate, and is markedly different from the less intriguing and soft-focus style for Peter Medak's misanthropic episode, The Washingtonians .
Anderson's Session 9 was an intriguing tale of psychological disintegration and bears some similarities to Sounds Like – namely a leading character's forced normalcy on the job after he committed a horrible crime at home – but it was less effective as a long-form drama because the payoff was badly delayed to the end by meandering scenes; in Sounds Like, Anderson found the right story and running time to cover similar ground without unnecessary padding.
Session 9 is also worth mentioning again because at the time of its release, it was an early horror film shot with early HD gear, and the camera movements, macro shots, colour saturation and lack of harsh whites in Sounds Like illustrate how far the format has advanced in 7 years.
DVD extras include a decent commentary track with Anderson , plus a making of featurette that covers the shoot, effects. A secondary featurette is less about the sound design, and more focused on the maggots, fish, and flies, and two Showtime contest winners who watched filming, and had small background roles in a restaurant scene.
This title is available separately, and in a life-sized skull that houses the complete Second Season of Masters of Horror which includes "The Black Cat," "The Damned Thing," "Dream Cruise," "Family," 'Pelts," "Pro-Life," "Right to Die," "The Screwfly Solution," "Sounds Like," "Valerie on the Stairs," "The V Word," "The Washingtonians," and "We All Scream for Ice Cream."
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan