This seems to be the longest film review I've ever done. I don't know why. The film certainly doesn't desrve it - it's not very good. And in fact it's not really even a review as I'm not really saying anything about the film; I'm merely sarcastically commenting on the action for cheap laughs. There's no commentary, no critical distance, no attempt to analyse its themes, tropes or mores. It's one long sneering spoiler. But it's not like any of you are ever actually going to watch this film...
Oh, and it's not the worst modern British horror film I've seen. That would be House of Nine.
Reverb. (2008) dir. Eitan Arrusi. starring: Eva Birtwhistle, Leo Gregory, Margo Stilley.
We open on the hum of white-noise, grainy footage of viscera on tiled walls; analogue recording equipment and a hobbling figure making its way down a poorly lit corridor.
It's a horror film, then.
But we cut to an attractive indie-ish couple doing their mundane day jobs. It's tedious, repetetive and soul corroding stuff but they haven't lost their edge. He says the company name in a sarcastic manner and rolls his eyes. She draws a v-sign on a post-it note and sticks on her fore-head. No e-mail in that office then. Surely there must be more to their lives than this? They seem so young and spunky: look; he's driving erratically and she's smoking drugs in the car! Cool, they've got me on-side; they're free-spirits, not mindless drones. But which one is Dharma? And which one is Greg?
Meet Alex (Leo Gregory): he used to be in a band with his gal-pal Maddie (Eva Birtwhistle) until it all went wrong for some reason. He's been offered a chance to get onto a compilation album as long as he has the track by Monday - but he doesn't have any tracks at all! Maddie calls in a few favours and gets him a weekend at the world's most ridiculously glamorous recording studio which, for some reason, closes at weekend. And evenings (Rock-star work; it's a steady nine-to-five).
Once inside he starts listening to XFM for inspiration(!) and is flabbergasted by the industrial-lite indie pop that he hears! (listen to some early 90's Curve*, mate - it'll blow your fucking mind!)His creative juices flow and he records a bit of it and shifts the pitch slightly. That's his now. But wait, what's this peculiar frequency?
"There's nothing happening on the outboards," says Maddie, "if it was distorting on the record it would have the same distortion pattern as the recording...it's not happening on either of those!" I don't know what this means - surely the record is the recording? I've been in bands. I've worked in call-centres too but I've never managed to acquire the sort of casual and authoratitive sound-engineering skills exhibited here. I've been walking around with my eyes closed.
Maddie decides to use her dictaphone(from space) to record the room itself and when the recording is played back the soundwave shouts "Help Me" in a spooky voice. So Maddie decides to go for a walk. On her own. Down a hundred miles of dimly lit corridor.
Now, I don't want to come across like a policeman watching The Bill and snorting derisively at procedural innacuracies BUT...every recording studio I've ever been to has beige carpet, a little kitchen for making tea and a couple of bijou studios, built for speed not comfort (or speed cut with comfort, if you get a bad batch). They do not look like high-end hotels with ersatz Jamie Hewlitt art on the walls and endless moodily-lit corridors.
Alex is making music. Where does the music come from? Nobody actually seems to be playing or recording anything but the consoles keep leaping into life and playing hidden tracks of people having a really rough time of it.
"Probably just some muso joke," say Alex, convincingly.
Maddie isolates another track of human suffering - a woman's voice pleading for help. What to do? Ring the authorities saying enough is enough? No, she has sex with Alex. With her knickers on.
He's no better. After a post-coital chat about his creative muse: "One minute there's silence in my head and the next there's a song!" he drifts off into troubled dreams; full of blood and people wandering down tunnels looking like they've shit their pants. He wakes up (or does he?) with blood on his hands (or has he?) and discovers shit emo lyrics felt-tipped all over his body (or are they? Yes. Shit, I mean)
Maddie wakes up paralysed in her pants and terrorised by some shadowy horror. And then she isn't paralysed, so goes and does yet more moody mooching around. She discovers, on the internet, that a musician named Mark Griffin (rock 'n' roll!) committed suicide at the age of 27 in that very studio. We know he was 27 because the on-screen Google-search flashes up the names of Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain before settling on Griffin (so presumably the search request was "musicians who died at 27 who have had films made about them"). Griffin believed, as the shamen believed, that the recorded voice steals the subject's soul. Though Mr.C has subsequently distanced himself from these comments.
Alex appears back in the room, unecessarily abruptly, with pages of felt-tipped lyrics: "I've got it!" he says. And soon Maddie is doing an accapella version of his song - but something is not right. Alex rips off his shirt and wraps it around the microphone. Perhaps the studio should have scrimped a bit more on the tastefully lit corridors and bought a few pop-shields.
Amazingly, as Maddie has perfect pitch, timing and phrasing, her vocals fit perfectly when Mark hits the button marked "generic indie band".
"This is the one that's going to turn it all around!" he says, convincingly.
Maddie has lost her dictaphone and it's back to wandering the corridors alone again. She ends up in the cellar but it's morning. And nothing has happened.
At home in her surprisingly nice flat for a twenty-something call-centre worker; all high-tec computer equipment and National guitars, Maddie discovers the voice shouting "help me!" is a perfect match for her own voice; using the voice-recognition soft-ware fitted as standard on modern lap-tops.
She does further research. It seems that the song "Blood Room", originally sampled from XFM, is also an experimental film, also made by Mark Griffin in 1971. He's an auteur! The film is shit but it looks an awful lot like Alex's nightmares. Alex goes round to his ex-girlfriend's flat to try and get her to sing on his new project. "Just listen!" he yells, thrusting a C90 cassette at her. A C90? Wha?
Alex and Maddie try to track down "Blood Room" the album. They haven't slept for about twenty four hours by this point and that is possibly why, instead of just looking it up on Spotify they go to see surly record collector Wurzel, who lives in an office full of records and sunlight.
Wurzel has the record and about 300lbs of exposition: Griffin made his record, mysteriously, in one night and nobody knows who the singer is! Hmnn.
Back in the studio and Alex and his ex (Margo Stilley) are rocking the new tune. Maddie wants to show them the spooky cellar. Wurzel turns up, panicked, to tell them he's found out what a "Blood Room" is for. Full house; time for people to start dying! At the 52 minute mark!
"The Blood Room:" says Wurzel,"at the moment of death we released a sound that would open a door between worlds!"
Alex has some sort of fit in the bathroom and wakes up with "help me" scored into his arm like an honest Richey Manic. Wurzel hears a lot of noise and the camera starts to shake. For some reason if Alex finishes his song it will open the gates of hell. It's surprising that this hasn't happened previously given that this is a recording studio - one imagines that songs are recorded on the premises quite regularly.
Alex has got his full invocation on and, after an inept cat-scrap between ex-girlfriend and recent shag, ties Maddie up and threatens her with a mic-stand. Then he grabs the ex and pulls her into what we're now agreeing to call the "Blood Room", where he ties her up in mic-flexes and gets her drunk by messily pouring booze over her head. Maddie escapes, wanders back amongst the corridors and finds Wurzel dead, presumably from a terminal case of vibration white finger.
Alex catches her again, drags her into the "Blood Room" to make her special noise, while she looks into the cold dead eyes of Margo Stilley (no diservice to her, she's meant to be dead).
At the last minute she knocks over her microphone, it lands upon the booze
saturated wires and electrocutes Alex at his recording desk. The Fire Brigade arrive. Maddie thinks she is fine. She isn't.
There. Done. Don't watch this. It's not very good.
*slightly superfluous. There is only early 90s Curve. as far as anybody knows.