June 13, 2023

THE SOUND OF SUMMER: What the Hell Did I Just Watch?

2022 / 75 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

The Sound of Summer immediately reminded me of what makes cicadas distinctive…their high-pitched “singing,” which sounds like hundreds of tiny maracas. It’s nearly identical to a sound effect used in an old Star Trek episode to depict the crew being infected by an insanity-causing virus, which freaked me out as a kid. So while these little bugs are apparently harmless, I’ve always found something a bit sinister about them.

The movie does, too, though it isn’t your run-of-the-mill killer bug story. In fact, part of me is still trying to process what the hell I just watched.

Japan is in the midst of a grueling summer heatwave, making life unbearable for the protagonist (Kaori Hoshino) as she spends her days working at a local coffee shop. The nights are worse, with the heat exacerbated by the unceasing noise of cicadas outside. There’s also a creepy old man (Shinya Hankawa) who visits the coffee shop carrying cages of cicadas he’s collected. He never speaks, but a heavy-handed music cue lets us know he’s the antagonist the second he enters the room.

Or is he? Though a few disturbing scenes suggest malevolent intentions (maybe even cannibalistic tendencies), his presence might simply be the catalyst for the protagonist’s descent into madness. Either way, she begins to develop rashes all over her body, which itch insatiably and grow steadily worse, eventually breaking her skin in various spots. In one particularly nasty sequence, she uses tweezers to explore the wounds, pulling out pieces of cicadas from her arms, nose, ears and…other regions. 

Damn nose hairs.
She’s convinced the “Cicada Man” put the bugs inside her while she slept, though her doctor (who might be the most worthless MD of all time) thinks she’s simply delusional and keeps prescribing pills. But as she gets worse, she isolates herself in her tiny apartment, while the Cicada Man himself appears to be going through a hideous metamorphosis.

At this point, the movie dives head-first into Lynchian territory - narratively & aesthetically - and doesn’t look back. A comparatively straightforward (and mundane) opening act gives way to surrealism and gobs of twisted imagery. Considering what looks like a limited budget, the writer-director - who calls himself “Guy” - manages to accomplish a lot with very little. The aforementioned tweezer sequence isn’t a master class in make-up effects, but the way it’s shot (aided by Hoshino’s delirious facial expressions) renders the whole thing really unnerving. Conversely, Cicada Man’s transformation features elaborately grotesque gore effects and creature design.

Of course, what passes for a narrative might just be a clothesline on which to hang Guy’s parade of nightmarish sequences. Still, The Sound of Summer is morbidly fascinating, a creative example of body horror on a budget. Whether the viewer finds it brilliant or baffling, chances are they’ll never hear cicadas the same way again.






No comments: