Berberian Sound Studio

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Berberian Sound Studio is an alternately loving and nasty cinematic valentine to the low-budget “Giallo” horror films that haunted Italian cinema throughout the ’60 and ‘70s. The year is 1976 and a mild-mannered British sound engineer named Gilderoy (Toby Jones, Frost/Nixon) arrives in Rome to work on the post-synchronized soundtrack to The Equestrian Vortex, a tale of witchcraft and murder set inside an all-girl riding academy. Instead of showing us any scenes from this lurid movie-within-the-movie, however, director Peter Strickland keeps his focus squarely on the mayhem within the sound studio itself, as Gilderoy and his team plunge carving knives into fruits and vegetables, actresses try out various shrieks and screams in the recording booth, and a pompous director struts about comparing his schlock to high art. Then, gradually, the line between cinema and reality blurs, and Gilderoy can no longer tell if he is merely working on this movie or if perhaps he is its very subject. Tricked out in fastidious period detail and a keen appreciation for the era of pre-digital cinema and the suggestive power of sound, Berberian Sound Studio is a creepy treat for cinephiles and horror fans alike. (Dir. by Peter Stickland, 2012, UK, 92 mins., Not Rated, IFC Midnight) Digital