Every great work of horror fiction is an exercise in extreme empathy.
--author Joe Hill
--me about halfway through this movie proving his point.
I'm a sucker for body horror. Unlike, say, a decapitation or a werewolf attack, we've all experienced the primal terror of our bodies doing things we don't understand. (Adolescence, anyone?) And The Sound of Summer, distributed by the fine folks at Unearthed Films, distills that special terror to its most basic (and intimate) form.
And when I say "basic," I mean basic. It's summer in Japan, and we follow a nameless young woman as she goes about her day: working at a coffee shop, lamenting the heat and the cicaidas (gross!), giggling with her co-worker about some weird dude with a box of cicaidas. ("What is he, a kid?") It's not much of a story, but its simplicity is what makes it so effective. She could be any of us.
She could be any of us.
Though our heroine is an everywoman that's easy for the audience to imprint on, Kaori Hoshino's performance elevates her character. Hoshino is fun to watch, and her discomfort and terror are palpable without being cartoonish. The Sound of Summer seems to be her debut feature, and I look forward to more of her work.
But that discomfort and terror aren't for everyone. Body horror as a genre isn't shy about confronting us with our own squishiness, and The Sound of Summer goes further than most. (In particular, there's a scene involving tweezers and a hole where you really don't need to be sticking them.) But as graphic as things get, the young woman's torment remains firmly in the realm of possibility--which makes it even worse. The doctor she visits doesn't believe a strange man put cicaidas in her body, but he's genuinely trying to help her. (In fairness, the audience doesn't know whether or not the cicaidas are real, either--which makes her predicament even scarier, if anything.)
For me, The Sound of Summer is at its best when it's both firmly rooted in reality and not giving you any clear answers. Unfortunately, the ending overturns both of those things; even though I'm not sure what happened, it disappointed me. But that's ultimately a small complaint. The Sound of Summer is my introduction the work of writer/director Guy and Sculpting Fragments Productions (and that work is, again, not for everyone), but I definitely want to see more of it.