There’s Reason to Be Excited About ‘Tone-Deaf’

Millennials are ungrateful, entitled bums. Boomers are responsible for the broken world that’s been inherited by younger folk. Whether it’s a battle between the age groups or those with opposing political ideologies, we’re all supposed to stick to our tribes and refuse to co-exist with the enemy. Sure, maybe that’s an exaggeration about the real world we all live in, but in the nightmarish realm that is Richard Bates Jr.’s imagination, the divide is strong — and deadly.

At least this appears to be the case with Tone-Deaf, the director’s latest horror offering. The story follows Olive (Amanda Crew) as she braces for some downtime in the countryside after losing her job and fleeing from her dysfunctional relationship. Unfortunately, she crosses paths with Harvey (Robert Patrick), an elderly homicidal maniac who doesn’t take too kindly to her generation.

According to the film’s official synopsis, Tone-Deaf “provides a dark critique of the bizarre cultural and political climate that currently exists.” The trailer, meanwhile, is really quite weird and suggests that the movie will really embrace “bizarre” part of said climate. Check it out below (per Saban Films) and see for yourself.

Bates isn’t the household name he should be yet, but he’s made a strong impression among the indie horror faithful during his short career. His movies tend to shift between a variety of genres, tones, and moods, but they all contain a strong personal component that makes them more human and relatable than a lot of the horror fare out there. One of the most interesting aspects of the director’s work, though, is its penchant for pitch-black comedy that arises from some gruesome situations.

His debut feature, Excision, is a gross and disturbing coming-of-age tale cross-pollinated with David Cronenberg-esque body horror. In the film, AnnaLynne McCord plays a social outcast with dreams of becoming a surgeon someday. That’s when she’s not dreaming about experiencing erotic fantasies involving blood, mutilation, and corpses anyway. The film examines awkward teen growing pains and amplifies them to extreme levels. Not every viewer will find humor in this one, but the film is hilarious in a demented way that’s quite reminiscent of Todd Solondz and John Waters’ best sickening movies.

For Suburban Gothic, the director took a rare detour into feel-good comedy horror. The film follows a pair of twentysomething slackers (played by Matthew Gray Gubler and Kat Dennings) who decide to become ghost hunters when one of their houses becomes haunted by a ghost. While the movie doesn’t fully embrace Bates’ twisted sensibilities, it does explore the idea of millennial disillusionment that appears to be a theme he’s exploring with more savagery in his newest offering. Like his other works, however, Suburban Gothic is a movie that earns laughs through its willingness to address upsetting topics, such as depression and lost souls trying to find some purpose.

Bates’s lighter brand of terror tale didn’t last long. In Trash Fire, he returned to the dark side for a twisted comedy about dysfunctional relationships and religious hysteria. The movie sees Entourage’s Adrian Grenier play an unlikeable prick who decides to try and better himself when he learns that his girlfriend is pregnant. This leads to him trying to make amends with his religious grandmother and horrifically scarred sister (who stopped using the Lord’s name in vain because He killed her parents and set her on fire). It’s another movie that mines humor from the depths of human depravity and even features an outlandishly hysterical scene where granny pleasures herself to televangelism. Enter at your own risk.

Until now, Bates has focused on telling coming-of-age stories in original, strange, and disturbing ways. With Tone-Deaf, he’s observing some larger hot-button issues in the form of a surreal slasher film. There will be some brutality on display for sure, but seeing his daring comedic sensibilities applied to this particular concept will make for some interesting viewing. I imagine that it’s going to please viewers who like their comedy to probe some heated subject matter in an uncompromising fashion. This element, in addition to the director’s originality, is why Tone-Deaf should be on your radar.

Kieran Fisher: @HairEverywhere_ Kieran is a Daily Curator for the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.