From a makeshift laboratory room in Austria to Austin, Texas Masking Threshold will premiere at Fantastic Fest next week, and director Johannes Grenzfurthner expressed his excitement ahead of the festival, "I do weird things in my life. I run a cocktail robotics festival, I bury people alive in art performances, I run a fake Soviet country... you name it. But when I started to turn one of the rooms in my apartment in Austria into a laboratory mancave in Florida, not in my wildest dreams would I have thought that the experimental microbudget horror drama I had in mind would end up on the other side of the planet on the big screen celebrating its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest. 'Leckoasch,' as we say in Vienna, to state enthusiastic disbelief."
Masking Threshold focuses on a skeptical IT worker conducting experiments in his makeshift home laboratory to cure his hearing impairment. But as with any experiment, the research may lead the nameless protagonist to unexpected places. Described as "a chamber play, a scientific procedural, an unpacking video, and a DIY YouTube channel while suggesting endless vistas of existential pain and decay. Glimpse the world of the nameless protagonist in this eldritch tale, which is by no means for the faint of heart." We can't wait to discover what nightmares await. Check out the official trailer below
The nameless protagonist is described by Grenzfurthner as reaching a point "when sympathy for him dissolves into horror. It’s like watching one of those videos of a car sliding on an icy road, very slow, unable to break. You watch it, and you know it won’t end well. You just don’t know how bad it is going to be in the end." Our guess is Masking Threshold does not end well for our protagonist, maybe for others as well. But we are excited to be along for the ride that delivers us to that ending.
Here's a full exclusive statement from Grenzfurthner, on the making of Masking Threshold and the philosophy the film is built upon:
Masking Threshold is a film about a suffering, stubborn person whose worldview and beliefs are turned on their head, whose dogmas come out against the world and himself. My protagonist is queer, so you want to understand the societal pressure on him, you want to understand the trauma he went through and the burden of his awful illness. But a point comes when sympathy for him dissolves into horror. It’s like watching one of those videos of a car sliding on an icy road, very slow, unable to break. You watch it, and you know it won’t end well. You just don’t know how bad it is going to be in the end.
Florian Hofer, my hauntingly talented cinematographer, helped create this vision of a nerd who is driven—or drives himself—too far. Either a nameless entity really victimizes him, pushes him into cosmic madness, or he is that nameless entity that continues to torment the world around him.
The philosophical core of the film, which my co-writer Samantha Lienhard and I molded into a diary-like narrative, is a fear many people have. The modern worldview tears us from the center of creation and reduces us to a speck of dust in space. It includes the urge for control, the reactionary fear of regression and decay, and an almost Lovecraftian terror of contamination. Although the protagonist is a scientifically educated person, his dark, regressive fears and utter hubris overwhelm him. He’s a know-it-all, ranting and raving in his improvised laboratory, a strange womb of sorts, and yet he knows nothing.
My protagonist (voiced by the wonderful Ethan Haslam) isn’t a pleasant person, but I understand him. He suffers, and the world turns away from him. He’s alone, misunderstood. Many of his thoughts and processes are derived from my understanding of the world. They are based on my dark thoughts. I am a nerd, and the germ cell of nerdism is difference. Nerds yearn to be understood, to find opportunities and share experiences, and to find companions to explore bizarre interests. At the same time, they derive an almost perverse pleasure from wallowing in the opposite of these things. Nerds love the deficiency of the other and that of their own. They’re eager explorers who enjoy measuring themselves against one another, competing aggressively. And yet, the nerd’s existence comprises an element of the occult, of mystery. How this power expresses or focuses is very important. Although it might sound strange, ethics are a fundamental issue in Masking Threshold.
To quote a nerd classic, “Be excellent to each other!”
Well, my protagonist is not excellent to anyone. He inflates a bubble around himself, fearing and avoiding the world in its multifaceted reality. He has a well-manicured and privileged ignorance. It’s short-sightedness and negligent historicity. Often, that sort of ignorance doesn’t leave any room for ethics.
Don’t be like my protagonist. Be better.