TONE-DEAF (2019) Reviews and overview

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‘The struggle is real.’
Tone-Deaf is a 2019 American comedic horror film written and directed by Richard Bates Jr. (Trash Fire; Suburban Gothic; Excision).

The Best Medicine Productions-Circle of Confusion movie stars Amanda Crew, Robert Patrick, AnnaLynne McCord and Kim Delaney.


After losing her job and imploding her latest dysfunctional relationship, Olive (Amanda Crew) wonders if she’s dealing with typical millennial angst or something more disastrous. Deciding it’s time for a change, Olive leaves her apartment in the city for a relaxing weekend in the country.

She rents a house from Harvey (Robert Patrick), an old-fashioned widower who’s struggling to hide his psychopathic tendencies. Olive was hoping for a therapeutic trip to resolve her emotional problems, but her focus soon shifts to survival…

Tone-Def had its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, on March 10, 2019. Saban Films acquired North American distribution rights and released the movie theatrically and On-Demand on August 23, 2019.


“Bates Jr. can’t stick the landing, but Tone-Deaf is devilishly hilarious for the first two acts, diving into murky psychological waters to trigger some spooky and surreal stuff for genre fans, but also retaining a defined sense of humor, with amusing amplification of common generational issues, having a good time poking a stick at people of all ages.”

” …an unflinchingly brutal, frequently ugly satire which looks at the state of the union and finds few to spare. Yet the writing and the acting are both so razor-sharp that it’s easy to get caught up in: you’ll laugh, and feel bad about yourself for laughing, but just long enough to get sideswiped by the next punchline (or gut punch, as the case may be).” Boston Hassle

” …goes to extremes to accentuate the clear-cut divide among the population of the United States. Therefore, one can easily say that Tone-Deaf is a socio-political satire baked into the easily digestible crust of a slasher-horror flick. And, spoiler alert, all sides of the debate are tomahawked!” Cryptic Rock

” …Tone-Deaf might not be the ideal jumping on point for getting your feet wet in the weird worlds of Ricky Bates Jr. But if his other three films personally struck relatable chords for biting commentary as well as unsettling entertainment, Tone-Deaf assuredly will too.” Culture Crypt

“Patrick and Crew are excellent in Tone-Deaf as well, with their eventual verbal jabs at each other during the finale being relatable in so many ways, and while it may not quite have the polish that Excision did (sorry, my deeply rooted love for that film probably will never be topped), fans of Bates, Jr.’s work should find Tone-Deaf to be music to their ears.” Daily Dead

“It feels like tiny 15-minute chunks from entirely different movies pieced together at random times, as you never know exactly what the film is trying to say or how you’re supposed to react. If you don’t like what you’re seeing on screen, just wait a little longer and it will change into a different film.” Dread Central

“It’s the final 30-minutes of Tone-Deaf where the gloves come off and Bates Jr. demonstrates just how much tension he can pull out of a scene. It’s truly exquisite dread as Olive unknowingly navigates the house throughout the weekend, unaware that every choice she makes gets her closer to horrific violence, except the audience can see it coming.” Elements of Madness

” …it relies overly much on Patrick‘s monologues, which are directed at the viewer – assuming the viewers are millennials – to make its point. Admittedly, the monologues are pretty great, mostly due to Patrick‘s dedicated, scene-chewing delivery. Crews’ character Olive and her millennial stereotypes of friends were a bit on the nose…” Film Inquiry

” …never swinging far enough one way or the other to be consistent, never too serious to be an effective suspense thriller, and never too humorous to be a dark comedic social satire. Though misguided, Tone-Deaf is still a fun little thriller featuring two strong leads in Crew and Patrick, but the lack of commitment of its primary components prevents this from being anything but a mediocre affair.” Film Pulse

“I absolutely know that for some audience members, the crazy tonal shifts and pure insanity of the plot will be the very reasons they love it […] The take no prisoners style and tone are going to turn off other viewers. For me, I loved the acting, the cinematography, and individual sequences work stunningly.” Film Threat

“Despite some decent work by Crew and Patrick, and Bates’ strong eye as a director, it’s all over the map—sometimes asking us to laugh at Patrick’s insanity and sometimes asking us to be scared of it. Gender commentary, class commentary, slasher horror, broad comedy, even family drama—none of the several films buried within Tone-Deaf work.”

” …overall Tone-Deaf is a tight little horror film about the current culture wars being waged between the red and blue ends of the political spectrum. While this fissure can sometimes create real-world terror, that rift in Tone-Deaf has both hilarious and bloody consequences.” Rue Morgue

” …knowing what I know about Ricky Bates’ talent and ability to take these concepts and deliver a thesis without going to such extremes to make sure the audience is in on the joke, I was sorely disappointed.” Screen Anarchy

“It’s a shame that every scene involving Olive’s character is a total waste and that the humor is so mean-spirited and dull. She’s a non-starter as a protagonist, perhaps meant by Bates to garner up as much sympathy as possible for Patrick and make his untenable positions seem, well, compelling.” Vanyaland

“The satire of a bitchy, shallow Millennial and a curmudgeonly, conservative boomer itself comes off tritely misanthropic, cornering the actors into strenuous one-dimensional turns that aren’t nearly as entertaining as intended.” Variety

Choice dialogue:

“Life is too short to allow yourself to be consumed by trivialities.”

“Wanna make a difference? Wanna be a conduit for change? Here’s an idea. Go drink a gallon of bleach.”


Trash Fire (2016)

Suburban Gothic (2014)

Excision (2012)


Cast and characters:
Amanda Crew … Olive – Isabelle; FreaksThe Haunting in Connecticut
Robert Patrick … Harvey – Skeletons in the Closet; Eloise; AutopsyTerminator 2: Judgment Day; et al
AnnaLynne McCord … Blaire
Kim Delaney … Crystal
Keisha Castle-Hughes … Wyatt
Ray Wise … Michael – Halloweed; Night of the Living Deb; Dead Still; Big Ass Spider!; Dead End; et al
Hayley Marie Norman … Lenore
Nelson Franklin … York
Johnny Pemberton … Uriah
Ray Santiago … Asher
Tate Ellington … James
Ronnie Gene Blevins … David
Nancy Linehan Charles … Agnes
Danny Ramirez … Rodrigo
Pia Shah … Riki
Christian Calloway … Abraham
Dianna Miranda … Mona
Shane Brady … Ethan
Gigi Zumbado … Frankie
Heidi Kaufman … Edith
Stacey Machelle … Kayla

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