TONE-DEAF (2019) [Grimmfest 2019 Review]

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TONE-DEAF (2019)
Written and Directed by Richard Bates Jr.

After breaking up with her boyfriend and losing her job, Olive decides to get away from the city for the weekend by renting a country house. Unbeknownst to her, the owner of the home,  bitter widower Harvey is a disgruntled baby boomer in the midst of a breakdown who wants to exact revenge on millennial society for their work-shy, owed-everything mentality. He spies Olive’s stay as a chance to do something he’s yet to experience: kill someone. However, with Olive keen to mingle with other people and housekeeper Agnes frequenting the home, Harvey encounters some obstacles along the way.

Directed by Richard Bates Jr. (Excision), TONE-DEAF is a contemporary horror comedy wrapped up in a shroud of ego, stupidity and sarcasm, as two conflicting generations are pitted against each other in this mirror image of current society.

Olive is a typical “screw everything” young woman who tends to not give a shit about anyone but herself and is, surprisingly, also a keen pianist. However, it appears no-one else is a fan of her piano skills, or lack of them, but Olive is none the wiser as they praise her playing despite it being a crime against eardrums everywhere.

In the film, both Olive and Harvey are tone-deaf. They’re completely wrapped up in their own generation’s ideals that they can’t see each other’s point of view. This probably applies more to Harvey than it does Olive as he has perpetual prejudiced nightmares about vegans, homosexuals and anything that would go against the grain of strict, old-fashioned beliefs. Olive is your snowflake millennial who seems to lay blame at everyone’s door except her own and at the same time is seemingly capable of very little. However, when we see what nasty surprises Harvey has in store for her, you really want Olive to wake up from her bubble and see the reality of what’s going on.

TONE-DEAF seems to capitalise on this conflict of two different worlds and opinions and amps it up to the max to show how ridiculous it all is. This is wonderfully showcased through Olive’s tantrum-like attitude at the beginning of the movie followed by Harvey’s fourth-wall breaking dialogue and dreams. A gradual build-up as Harvey spies his chance to make Olive suffer, complete with a few hiccups along the way, results in some seriously nail-biting moments that will have viewers squinting with unease. A scene involving a spider and another scene featuring nails will more than likely make you squirm in your seat at this effective battle between young and old.

Bates Jr. uses music effectively for his fresh style of cinematic storytelling. This goes hand-in-hand with the attitude that the film generally exudes whilst the choice of cast is to be applauded. Kim Delaney as Olive’s mum Crystal, a hippy-type living in a commune after the death of her husband (played by Bates Jr. regular, Ray Wise), provides a lot of the laughs accompanied by the inexperienced plaything Uriah who is completely inept with societal norms. Ray Santiago also delivers a wonderful turn as Olive’s supervisor Asher who tries to worm his way into the knickers of all his female staff. However, Robert Patrick and Amanda Crew steal the show as the two leads with Patrick appearing to relish harnessing the aggression of Harvey as he blames the world for his problems. Pretty ironic, don’t you think.

Visually striking, TONE-DEAF is a finely-tuned black comedy horror that isn’t afraid to turn exaggeration to its advantage with outrageous, tongue-in-cheek results.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

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About Bat 4339 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Mafia III.

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