Here are my reviews of The Lost Sons, Sound of Violence, and The Spine of Night from the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
THE LOST SONS
In April of 1964, a baby was stolen from a Chicago hospital and nobody knew who or why it happened. A few months later, a toddler is abandoned and people begin to wonder if this could be the baby that stolen roughly a year ago. The Lost Sons takes a look at this bizarre true story, the events that took place, and the people who were a part of it, including the “stolen baby” himself, Paul Fronczak.
The Lost Sons is one of those documentaries that shows a story that if I had not seen it on film and learned about this story, it would be really hard to believe it actually happened. This is a movie that looks at more about just the baby being stolen and then potentially found. It starts off like a mystery movie, as we are wondering what happened to this baby, who stole it, and where did this new child come from. We have no idea if it’s the right baby or not. But as the most unfolds, it goes from a thrilling mystery into a sad, depressing look at identity, humanity, and parenting.
It’s tough to get into more detail about this movie because I don’t want to get into any spoilers of the events that take place, but it is really something you have to see to believe. It gets a little confusing and muddled toward the end, but The Lost Sons is an interesting, emotional documentary.
SOUND OF VIOLENCE
During the 2021 SXSW Film Festival, I was waiting for that one great film. I had seen a decent amount of good films and ones that I really liked, but nothing that I would consider truly great. That all changed when I saw Alex Noyer’s Sound of Violence, a gripping, gory, wildly original film.
The film looks at a girl named Alexis (Jasmine Savoy Brown), who was born deaf but recovered her hearing during the brutal murder of her family when she was ten. The traumatic experience awakened synesthetic abilities in her and started her on a path of self-discovery through the healing music of brutal violence. As an adult, Alexis is a college teacher who is constantly experimenting with new sounds with her roommate Marie (Lili Simmons). But when she is faced with the likelihood of losing her hearing again, Alexis escalates her pursuit of her masterpiece through gruesome sound experiments and devastating designs.
Sound of Violence is a dark, twisted, gruesome movie that features some horrific, Saw-esque sequences of violence. The blood level is turned all the way up on this one, yet Noyer uses these scenes perfectly and sparingly, which adds to the effectiveness of them. The finale of the film had my jaw on the floor. It was shocking and beautiful and nothing that I expected. It was a pitch perfect finale to a truly great film.
But this movie is about far more than just blood and gore. Noyer paints a portrait of an artist obsessed with finishing her dream project and willing to do everything she can to keep her creativity strong and ensure her hearing stays intact. It also shows the troubled relationship between an artist and the ones they love and how becoming so consumed with your work can push the people you love the most away. Credit to Brown for giving a layered, riveting performance and portraying Alexis’ obsessive nature but also showing us her passion for music and sound and making her seem sympathetic and relatable rather than insane.
Sound of Violence is one of the great movies of 2021 and the best movie I saw at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival.
THE SPINE OF NIGHT
I was sitting on my couch (as all film festivals are at home nowadays) a little after 8:00pm and hit play to start The Spine of Night. I didn’t know much about the movie going in, only that it was an R-rated animated movie with fantasy elements.
I was not ready for The Spine of Night. I was not ready for the animation, how violent it was going to be, how sexual and weird it was going to be.
This movie rules in every sense of the word. This is a midnight movie classic in the making. A movie that requires to be seen at the late hours of the night following the consumption of a few alcoholic beverages or other recreational substances. A movie that will have audiences cheering at the screen while also engrossed by the deep, mythic story and stunning animation. From the first frame of the movie, you know you are in for something wild. With animation reminiscent of Heavy Metal, the movie is detailed and colorful and only gets more impressive the longer the movie goes.
The plot revolves around an ambitious man who steals forbidden knowledge from a sacred plant and unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind, only to have others around him stand against, which include the likes of a tomb robber, a maniacal necromancer, and winged assassins. It’s a dense fantasy plot and for those who are into that, you’ll be all in. The film did lose me a bit in the middle, but ultimately ended on an incredibly violent, exciting note. The voice cast, featuring Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Joe Manganiello, and Betty Gabriel among others, are all on point.
Again, I saw this movie at 8:00pm while completely sober on my couch and I still really liked it. I can only imagine how much better this movie would be at midnight after four or five beers (with one in hand as the movie starts, of course) with a full theater.
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