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Fantastic Fest Review: Johannes Grenzfurthner’s ‘Masking Threshold’

Fantastic Fest Review: Johannes Grenzfurthner’s ‘Masking Threshold’

Sometimes a film comes along that ignores all the traditional methods of cinematic storytelling, opting for a more experimental take on delivering the narrative that really empowers it’s thematics. That’s most definitely the case with Johannes Grenzfurthner’s eerie psychological horror feature Masking Threshold which follows a singular protagonist, a nameless IT technician who’s taken time off work to conduct a series of research on his rare form of Tinnitus and that the viewer is only allowed slight glimpses of despite his narration spanning the entire ninety minute runtime. The presentation feels reminiscent of a science procedural that’s being uploaded to the internet, a vlog of sorts documenting the protagonist’s experiments and progress in an attempt to find others with similar conditions that might lead to answers. This technically qualifies it as a found footage film since the camera’s presence is always logically explained and it’s never treated as if it isn’t there, with the narrator even going so far as to reference why he’s filming on multiple occasions. It’s surely among the most unconventional entries into the subgenre though, with it’s extensive use of macro lenses lending itself to some bizarrely beautiful cinematography.

It becomes apparent from the start that the protagonist is extremely skeptical of modern medicine and finds the majority of doctors to be incompetent at their jobs, citing numerous scientific documents that conflict with the slew of incorrect diagnoses he’s been given in the past regarding his rare condition. He’s not some sort of uneducated conspiracy theorist though, since the whole time he’s delivering these politically charged statements he’s consistently citing scientific trials and research documents that he’s clearly very familiar with. It’s via his darkly humorous delivery of these sometimes horrifying facts that the viewer can deduce he’s simply reached his mental limit with these failing avenues of treatment and is now turning to his own research in order to achieve a proper diagnosis. It’s very dialogue heavy due to the presentation though it feels especially noticeable in the first half, as his progress during this phase is rather slow and comes across as being mostly character development time. This development very effectively happens, as the viewer will really feel like they know this guy by the time things start getting morbid but many will find it tough to stay engaged in the process as it employs an extremely slow method of getting there.

This slow burn pacing as well as the inclusion of an important yet minimally present side character is used quite effectively, really adding some emotional weight by the time credits roll. Empowered by the exquisitely horrifying sound design that attempts to mirror the sounds of the protagonist’s condition, the viewer will be subjected to a myriad of buzzes and hums that continuously heighten as the experiments grow more bizarrely specific with each scene before becoming almost unbearably intense in the final moments. The ending is admittedly predictable by the time you’ve gotten to know the character and the narrative begins to take shape, yet despite this it doesn’t feel any less effective at conveying it’s message by the time the credits roll. If it’s straightforward found footage horror you’re after then you’d be better off looking elsewhere, but if you’re in search of a uniquely thought-provoking if somewhat flawed experimental take on the genre then Masking Threshold will surely scratch that itch as it’s unsettling in a way few films manage to achieve. Keep your ears open for distribution information, which will be added here as it becomes available.

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