Have you ever seen a movie, where about ten minutes in, you’ve already concluded it’s going to be a bad film? Director Tony Glazer and Choice Films have made a film that meets the criteria as far as bad impressions go, but Dead Sound manages to bring about a miracle; it’s not a terrible film by any means. It’s a completely watchable film that is competently mediocre...
...Our little teen thriller begins with four best friends from boarding school heading out to a massive party on Block Island. They’re drunk on hormones, as dumb as you would except them to be (if not more) and eager to pick the fruits of their youth. Unfortunately, they missed the last boat. As movie magic luck would have it, they run into a sketchy, but charming guy at the local bar named Bobby (John Behlmann) who says he can charter them to Block Island for a fee. Nicky (Matthew Gumley), the spoiled rich but equally earnest and funny friend, pays Bobby and they all meet at the docks to depart. Skulking out of the shadows from the captain’s quarters, we meet Stone (Jeff Kober), who comes off like Robert Shaw from Jaws, with his tough and gruff demeanor. The overly cautious and protective Jake (Noah Gaynor) doesn’t want to follow through with the plan, but his girlfriend, Ashley (Sophie Faulkenberry), calls Jake out for having the spine of a jellyfish and urges him to come. So, in jellyfish fashion, he agrees to get on the boat. It’s not long before the teens realize that their course isn’t set for Block Island. Bobby and Stone have other plans for them and none of them require getting them to dry land.
When it comes to criticizing a film, I try to stay far away from putting most or all of the blame on any one person or component. It’s never a good feeling. If possible, I try to dig deeper to find the combined recipe for why a film falls apart. However, while I can’t accredit all the film’s flaws on him alone, Noah Gaynor is severely irritating in the film. Usually in a film like this, it’s the supporting characters we wish would be killed off, but in Dead Sound, our protagonist (or what the film wants the protagonist to be) is the only death toll I wanted to see. The initial character interactions with Jake at the beginning of the film are almost hard to watch. He is having an unconvincing argument with his girlfriend that honestly comes off like the beginning of a porno. It’s moments like these that gave me that poor first impression. As I stated earlier, the character of Jake is a spineless party pooper of sorts and while he has an arc near the end of the film, it doesn’t feel earned. Out of nowhere, he is given courage to do something brave, but as an audience, we don’t understand what is driving him other than being sad because his girlfriend doesn’t like him anymore. I don’t think Noah Gaynor is a bad actor. I don’t think he’s particularly good either, but his character is poorly written, and his performance is robbed of him. Writers Jon Adler and Todd Weihmann have actually crafted a decent thriller, but they misfired big with this character. His character doesn’t ruin the film, but it does hurt the overall enjoyment.
Despite one particularly poor character, Dead Sound does bring out some good performances and interesting characters. Out of the teenagers, Sophie Faulkenberry and Matthew Gumley are the winners here. The character of Nicky, while seemingly annoying at first, ends up breathing a lot of life into the film and offers us genuine comedic relief. His sincere loyalty to his friends and courage ends up being surprisingly moving. Certain actors just exude pure charisma and I believe Gumley has a bright future ahead of him.
The character of Ashley is my favorite of the bunch, because she is definitely the most interesting. I would have preferred her to be the protagonist, as her struggle with addiction is far more compelling than Jake’s wrestle with…being boring? Part of why they are going on the trip is to help Ashley clear her head. She has just returned from rehab and wants to be with the people who care most for her. Throughout the film, she is faced with temptation, difficult fight or flight moments and is ultimately forced into a traumatic situation, of which I will not spoil! She doesn’t even have an arc, but I like her more than anyone else in the film. Faulkenberry has proven herself to handle herself well as an actress and while she is a treat for the eyes, she is capable of much more than looking good. Everyone else in the film does a fine job. They play their parts as written, but no one else stood out to me as being memorable.
As a film, Dead Sound is a decent thriller. The plot could have been plucked from a movie plot Mad Libs page, but I don’t think a film like this requires or would benefit from something more complicated or even clever. When Bobby and Stone start to turn the tables and begin their terrorist like takeover, the film does, in fact, become very tense. A couple of times I caught myself balling up my hand into a tight fist in suspense. The film never outstays its welcome either, as it clocks in at a brisk 82 minutes. The Situation that these teens find themselves in was apparently loosely based on actual events. I couldn’t find a lot of information regarding the actual case, but even so, much of the events in the film are quite possible. Nothing seemed too outlandish or unbelievable.
Dead Sound is a watchable film. It’s the kind of movie you put on during a rainy day, when you just want to hang out at home with your animals and/or your significant other. It makes for a fun time under those kinds of circumstances. It’s not a film I’ll remember far down the road, but I was entertained by it and more importantly, I was surprised by it as well. What started out as a seemingly unexciting snooze fest, turned out to be an effective thriller. There are films that have done this set up better, such as Dead Calm (1989), so make sure to check that one out too. It absolutely has its issues, and I don’t think it’s vital that you watch this immediately, but there are far worse ways to spend 82 minutes.
Head to sea with Dead Sound on VOD March 3rd from Uncork’d Entertainment.
By Jeffrey W. Hollingsworth