Indie Corner: Ultrasonic, Paranoia or Government Conspiracy?
What if you awoke one morning with a sound in your head and are unable to turn it off? What if that sound progresses into musical patterns? Worried that you might be crazy, you asked around for help. Some call you mentally unstable, while your friend claims that the sound is a case of the government conducting psychological experiments on how to use sound to control us. Do you believe him?
The little independent film, Ultrasonic, which houses this psychological trauma, is proof that you don’t need a big budget with monster sightings to stir up tension. Following the District of Columbia Independent Film Festival, where it won best picture, Ultrasonic has received quite the unique local booking of theaters, and soon will be heading on a cross country cinematic tour. The film has garnered moderate approval ratings. While some claim the indieness of the film will be apparent, few, however, disagree that the inspired, enigmatic concept alone will hook audiences attention.
Aspiring to be a musician, Simon (Silas Gordon Brigham) struggles to raise the funds to promote his new album. To throw in a slight twist, he and his wife are expecting a baby. And as if things aren’t stressful enough, the meager living he makes as a children’s piano teacher is being cut off.
Quickly following the unveiling of the background story, Simon begins to hear things. At first it sounds like repetitive notes of a music scale. But eventually, the sounds build into more complex rhythms that to the simple ear would think of it to be nothing more than a roaring washing machine. Only he, (and we), can hear it.
A doctor dismisses it as “psychopathic acoustics.” A therapist says it is “individual delusional disorder.” Simon’s eccentric friend, Jonas, informs him that it is a government threat and he is the first warning.
Draining his mental state, Simon begins tearing apart his life, searching for the cause of the sound. After destroying his microwave and washing machine looking for clues, Simon’s wife becomes frustrated with him, increasingly picking fights. Finally, he notices a black box hovering above a street sign that can very well be the first clue to the mystery of the sound.
“While the movie has no alien pods, as in the classic paranoia film ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers,’ it does have a blessedly subtle threat and plants its ideas so deftly that we tend to at least believe the possibility – as long as we’re in the theater.”
As the film comes to a close, viewers will yearn for the sound of silence, which is what it does best. Incorporating the audience to fully understand what its like to hear the constant noise of a repetitious sound, Ultrasonic viewers will truly feel Simon’s psychological pain. Shortly after the film, expect to hear the faintness of the sound still ringing in your ears. Don’t worry, you’re not crazy.
Filmed in D.C., the setting of the political capital of America enhances the anxiety of big-government manipulation. Paranoid on every block, Simon spots a mysterious van near his house and a man-in-a-suit who knows Simon’s name approaches him.
So far, all agree Ultrasonic has ‘got a great story and stylish visuals. It’s black and white—with small pops of color—and great use is made of shapes and patterns within the frame.’
On a critical note, according to some reviews, Ultrasonic does not come without its kinks and noticeable problems.
“The script here could have used a few more passes to tighten it and improve the dialogue, but it’s pretty interesting, and most of the characters are just rounded enough to draw us into their world. With a lot of low-budget films, I end up wanting to like them more than I actually do, but I enjoyed this one. But, like I said, it’s rough. The editing can be a little rocky, and the score can be pretty annoying.”
Ultimately, this Indie film is worth seeing for its original cinematic value of a intriguing plot. The trailer alone grips our curiosity, as we feel a compulsion to have the ending revealed. Until seen in theaters, we are left with the unanswered question of: mental paranoia or government conspiracy?