A man suffering from Tinnitus attempts to cure himself through increasingly bizarre experiments in Johannes Grenzfurthner’s latest feature film Masking Threshold. Here is our review.
Horror comes in many forms. There is of course the tried and tested slasher genre, the supernatural and paranormal genre, Giallo, torture porn, creature feature, and many more. With Masking Threshold, Grenzfurthner has opted for a slow burn horror that almost feels intrusive, like we are reading someone’s personal diary entries.
A man, played by Johannes Grenzfurthner, but voiced by Ethan Haslam, builds himself a research lab in the basement of the house he rents in Florida, in order to look into the hearing problem that has hounded him for the past three years. Using his technical know-how as an IT Engineer, the man then starts to conduct experiments, starting with the rather simple tests of playing with what sounds everyday objects make, like the rustling of a crisp packet or brushing his hand over a cotton shirt. Constantly writing down the results of these tests, he then looks for reviews from his peers, but soon finds bullying from internet trolls, as well as being deemed a conspiracy theorist by others.
With some help from his polite, and helpful neighbour Dana (Katharina Rose), the man (known in the credits simply as Protagonist) starts to conduct stranger experiments, believing that he can hear the difference between plants, and fungi. He soon then starts to mess around with living creatures, experimenting with pouring salt on slugs, trapping ants by surrounding a small area with sticky paper before squashing them in his fingers, before even killing birds. He even states that he knows the moment that a creature is about to die, just through his hearing.
As the movie plays out, the horrors of the experiments are soon brought to the forefront, with the man gradually losing his mind and his grasp on reality. The movie becomes unnerving and rather disturbing. Grenzfurthner proving that you don’t need jump scares, costumed killers, or buckets of blood to truly terrify your audience; you can achieve it with unsettling imagery and sound spread over the course of an hour and twenty minutes.
The movie doesn’t play out in a conventional way; it is nearly all made up of extreme close-ups of whatever the protagonist is talking about at the time, like the aforementioned plants, fungi, and animals, as well as shots of equipment around the room, his ears, emails on a monitor, photographs of people he knows, and places he has been. All of which are spliced together in quick succession, rather like the opening credits to Se7en by David Fincher (though not as dark).
Having seen and reviewed a few films from Johannes Grenzfurthner in the past, like Traceroute and Glossary of Broken Dreams, I was really surprised by Masking Threshold. It wasn’t the path that I thought the Austrian auteur would take, but I came away from watching the film, happy that he did. A little disgusted, a little unnerved, but happy. Grenzfurthner has a way of grabbing my attention with each project he undertakes, and Masking Threshold was no exception.