Main cast: Chris Bauer (Larry Pearce), Laura Margolis (Brenda Pearce), Nicholas Elia (Michael Pearce), and David Allan Pearson (The Manager)
Director: Brad Anderson
Brad Anderson is known more for having directed some thriller films and TV shows than horror stuff, although I’d always have a fond place in my heart for Next Stop Wonderland, which is as far from horror as can be. I’m pleasantly surprised to see him among the roster for this series, but it’s a marvelous kind of surprise, as Sounds Like is easily the most heartbreaking, emotionally crushing, and gripping episode to date.
Larry Pearce is still grieving over the death of his son Michael, and he submerges himself in his work to distract himself from having to deal with his emotions. Meanwhile, his wife Brenda becomes obsessed with pregnancy – she starts finding reasons to believe that the women around her are pregnant, and, after making love with Larry, makes herself believe two days later that she is pregnant. As you can imagine, home isn’t a pleasant place for Jim to come back to. Worse, his hearing becomes unnaturally well-developed. He starts off by being able to hear whispered conversations that take place from across the hallway, and knowing what other people really think of him only fuels his paranoia and hot temper. As his behavior becomes increasingly erratic, his hearing becomes more heightened, to the point that even a little exhalation is a painful din in his head.
Chris Bauer gives a fine performance as a grieving man who becomes increasingly deranged due to his hearing as well as his loss. This episode gracefully weaves in some heartrending emotional scenes amidst scenes of Larry’s escalating derangement, and as a result, Larry remains a very sympathetic character even at his worst, I feel. All he wants is silence, to be left alone, and yet, he becomes increasingly traumatized by every sound out there. And, of course, he just has to have the worst job ever considering his affliction: he is a supervisor at a tech support center, listening in to hundreds of calls every day. And, really, it is very possible that, in the end, Larry may not be having supernatural heightened hearing as much as he is just losing his mind.
From the slow but gripping escalation of tension and paranoia to the haunting final scene of the episode, Sounds Like blends tragedy and pathos very well, and the episode becomes all the more frightening to watch because of how relatable Larry’s predicament is, and how heartbreaking it is to know that, ultimately, there is no breaking out of his tragic downward spiral. This is a difficult episode to watch because Larry isn’t a terrible man, he’s just someone who doesn’t know how to handle his grief, so to see what happens to him… ouch.
At any rate, this is the episode to watch if you need to pick one from the two seasons of Masters of Horror. There are other good episodes, but this is the one that really gets under my skin as well as shatter my heart to pieces.