NOISE IN THE MIDDLE (2020)
Directed by Marcus McCollum
Written by Glen Kannon, Marcus McCollum
Starring John Mese, Faye Hostetter, Tara Buck, Jim Holmes, Juliette Jeffers, Tom Konkle
Find out more about the film on Kings of Horror here!!
After his wife dies in a car accident, Richard (John Mese) is left to take care of their severely autistic daughter Emmy (Faye Hostetter). Moving into a new house so she can be near a clinic that administers an experimental therapy, Richard and Emmy are hopeful that it will help with Emmy’s increasingly impulsive behavior and Richard’s waning patience. But it seems that the house has a sordid history and may house some dark secrets which does not bode well for this already troubled family.
While it isn’t radically scary, I found NOISE IN THE MIDDLE to be a fascinating film, mainly because of the use of metaphor. It is an extremely exhausting job taking care of an autistic child as severely affected as Emmy and the film sheds light on all of the troubles that stem from it. Yes, this is a film about a haunted house, possession, and unsettled spirits, but it tells this story through the lens of someone overwhelmed with an afflicted child. Richard is a man full of faults in the way his life if depicted. One can’t help but sympathize with him having to basically spend every moment Emmy is awake following and caring for her. It requires a strength not everyone possesses. While the haunted happenings definitely influence what’s going on, there is a level this film can be viewed as a metaphor for the difficulties autism causes for the entire family. Mese plays this part well, as most of the film relies on him to communicate the heavy emotions because Emmy can’t. Little Faye Hostetter delivers a fantastic performance as Emmy, depicting a truly innocent and troubled picture of severe autism. In both the leads cases, they do a phenomenal job.
In horror films, it is important to have an antagonist, be it a virus, monster, evil force, or simply a bad guy. So I understand the reasons this film makes Richard’s flaws skew him towards dark forces. Still, as I said earlier, Richard’s feelings, to a point, are natural. Demonizing those feelings feels a bit unrealistic as resentment, frustration, selfishness, distraction, hopelessness, desperation, and so on are natural human responses to stress. I’m not condoning the behavior, but I am acknowledging that they are reasonable feelings given the situation. Still, a story had to be told and conflict had to arise, so I guess in terms of this story, it works as well as any.
I think NOISE IN THE MIDDLE depicts the struggles of the parents of a mentally ill child with an extremely deft and sensitive hand. While I had a few issues with the way the story panned out, it is one of the few films that I’ve seen showing such a sophisticated look at this very difficult subject matter. For that, I recommend this film for those attempting to make sense of the curiosity of the way the mind works and how it affects those we love. NOISE IN THE MIDDLE works marvelously in that sense.