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Tone-Deaf (2019) Movie Review

I've Been A Film Enthusiast as Long as I can remember. I Suffer from the Same Disease Leonard did in Memento.


MPAA Rating


Running Time

87 minutes


Richard Bates Jr.


Richard Bates Jr.

Since last week was the unofficial end to the summer movie season, (thanks to the idiotic Angel has Fallen it ended with a whimper, thanks to the amazing Ready or Not, it ended with a bang), there is now a dead week with no notable new releases of note until It Chapter 2 opens in early September.

Since there’s nothing for you to see in theaters, might as well turn up your air conditioning, take your dog out of the washing machine and park yourself in front of the TV with your Netflix account on for the next couple of hours…

Oh, you were going to do that anyway. Good. Glad to see I could help.

Since you weren’t going to the theaters anyway it’s probably a good thing that Tone-Deaf isn’t a very good movie. I would hate to see you waste the gas to go to a theater. Then you run out of gas on a deserted highway because Tone-Deaf is only playing in that local arty theater you never go to because it only plays movies with subtitles and sells those tiny bottles of artisan water for $8. You’re out of gas, but your phone tells you that the nearest gas station is about a mile and a half away. You consider walking instead of calling someone because you wanted to start exercising this summer but you’ve always made up excuses like “There’s never enough time,” or “I don’t believe in climate change or exercising,” but then your best friend Gus died of heart disease. Well, he wasn’t really your best friend, just someone you knew from work. You’d see each other at the office and other forced work functions, and you had each other’s phone numbers, but you never called each other because that was only for work emergencies like the Bateman project back in 2016. You heard the news he dropped dead from heart disease and was also killed by the alligator in Crawl.

So you walk to the gas station. You’ll get just enough gas to drive to the station and then fill up.

But that never happened because you didn’t hear that the Gas Can Killer escaped from the local mental hospital conveniently located by the arthouse theater playing Tone-Deaf. You never bothered to know that the Gas Can Killer killed more than 35 people walking along the road holding gas cans and that you are going to be his next victim.

All because you wanted to see Tone-Deaf because you thought it would good and you liked writer/director Richard Bates Jr’s previous movies Excision and Trash Fire. You thought his Suburban Gothic was a trash fire in a bad way but you sat through it anyway. You were looking forward to Tone-Deaf.

Little did you know that going to the arthouse theater would be the last thing you ever do because the Gas Can Killer has you in his sights holding your gas can.

Little did you know that Tone-Deaf is not worth dying for.

Yes. Yes, they do.

Ax him a question.

Ax him a question.


Our heroine Olive (Amanda “Wrecking” Crew) is not having the best week.

Olive just broke up with her boyfriend, though he was a waste of space. Later that day, she gets fired from her job by her douchey boss (Ray Santiago) for insubordination. We’re not sure what she does/did because it must have paid reasonably well because she lives in a pretty nice apartment building in Southern California. What’s she going to do for money now?

She has next week to figure that out. This weekend, she’s just going to give herself a vacation.

BTW- It’s established early on that when she was a little girl Olive was quite the piano prodigy. The only problem was she wasn’t very good at actually playing the piano and nobody had the guts to tell her that to her face. Just led her to believe she was brilliant. Oh, and her dad (Ray Wise) hung and killed himself at one of her recitals so there might be some residual trauma there too.

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Ax him another question.

Ax him another question.

Olive looks online and finds a house to rent for the weekend.


Harvey (Robert “Have you seen this Boy?” Patrick) is not having the best month.

Harvey’s wife just recently killed herself. His son thinks he’s suffering from dementia.

That ridiculous. Harvey’s not suffering from dementia just because he hears his dead wife’s voice. Wait, maybe he does because that’s not normal. Dead wives don’t usually talk to you well after they’ve killed themselves.

Harvey’s has some other problems as well.

I know.


Turns out Harvey doesn’t want to live the rest of his life in regret, and the one thing he regrets is never having killed anyone before.

Since his wife died, Harvey has taken to renting out the family house. He lives alone down the street. When Olive calls to rent the house, Harvey looks her up online and finds out she’s one of those millennials.

If there’s one thing Harvey hates, it’s one of those dirty lazy millennials. When Olive stays for the weekend, Harvey may find he has one less thing to regret.

Just don’t ask her to play the piano.

What Works With Tone-Deaf

  • The only genuinely funny sequence involves a car wash. Amanda Crew delivers the funniest line in the movie with a crispness that’s missing from the rest of the production. You sincerely laugh, and then realize it’s the only time you laughed during the movie. And then you became sad.
  • The extended version of Midsommar opens this weekend in certain arthouse theaters. Because what you wanted was for this movie to be longer. Seriously, it’s a very good movie. Way better than Tone-Deaf.

What Doesn't Work With Tone-Deaf

  • Labeled a horror/comedy, there really isn’t that much to laugh at and what might pass for horror really isn’t that scary. Richard Bates’ screenplay is tonally all over the place and you find yourself wondering if you’ve walked into the wrong movie. It is the wrong movie because it’s terrible.
  • Nothing of any consequence takes place in the first hour. You’re waiting and waiting for something to happen and only in the third act does something jolt you from your stupor. Again, it’s not really horrific but it is violent. There is a difference. Gore without sufficient context is hollow and pointless. Director Bates seems tone-deaf to the distinction.
He's really into this review.

He's really into this review.


You’d be better off listening to Olive play the piano for 90 minutes than sitting through this movie. Or just see Ready or Not again.

Buy Tone-Deaf Here!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Noel Penaflor

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