From the film’s IMDB.com page citation:
“When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, 16-year-old Ally Andrews, who lost her hearing at age 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven.”
Have you ever stumbled across the random Horror film, watched it from start-to-finish, and only then realized the only reason this thing likely got made was because it somehow attached itself to legitimately talented actors and actresses?
That’s my impression upon viewing The Silence, a bit of a monster movie mash-up that looks to have ended up being swept up by the streaming giant Netflix (of all places). It stars the venerable Stanley Tucci, the critically-praised Miranda Otto, and strongly-emerging Kiernan Shipka. Now, if you had told me those names were signed to headline a motion picture and nothing else, then I would’ve assumed that the project was likely going to be some mainstream entry about a wise yet fussy middle-aged couple trying to get their incessantly wry yet precocious daughter into law school or some such premise. But … a Horror movie? Really?
Now, I don’t say any of that to be mean, because – as a viewer – I recognize talent when I see it, and Tucci, Otto, and Shipka score some reasonable high marks in what modest highwater marks get achieved aboard The Silence. It’s just that I never would’ve picked that ensemble to launch a frightfest much less a frightfest as underwhelming as this one.
Directed by John R. Leonetti – a minor master of let’s call it low-brow Horror – the script by Shane Van Dyke and Carey Van Dyke. (For the record, theirs is an adaptation of a 2015-published novel of the same name by Tim Lebbon.) The Van Dykes – and, again, I mean no disrespect – certainly don’t have the street cred associated with some of Hollywood’s bigger efforts. In fact, I know them best from their association with The Asylum, a production outlet best known for producing second- and third-tier B-Movie often ‘knocking off’ the latest and greatest box office sensation. Having watched some of these films, I haven’t found any of them to be … erm … material I’d normally ascribe to a talent like Stanley Tucci, but … hey. Art is art. Am I right? I will add – politely – that it helps going into the film with lower expectations, and maybe you’ll have more fun with it.
Setting aside those issues, the other significant item of note is that The Silence bears more than a passing resemblance to another creature feature: from what I’ve read, A Quiet Place (2018) was in production nearly at the same time as this one, and I’m a bit gobsmacked that Mr. Lebbon maybe didn’t try to sue the pants off writer/director John Krazinski as the similarities are exceedingly significant. Young family? Check! Trying to escape the city in favor of a rural setting? Check! Deaf family member? Check. Well-known and bankable Hollywood talent in key roles? Like I said, anyone could watch these two back-to-back and wonder how a lawsuit never emerged, especially when A Quiet Place Part 2 (2020) goes even a bit deeper into the same end of the pool.
But I digress …
Sadly, The Silence also suffers from the appearance of an all-new villain in the third act: it would appear a cult-like group has comfortably taken up existence in this quiet place, and their new membership drive is Hell bent on seizing Shipka’s ‘Ally Andrews’ because – you guessed it – she’s fertile. (???) Apparently these parochial finger waggers have no idea how much racket babies make, otherwise they’d come up with some other means to repopulate the planet in their severed-tongues image. (Noises bad! Noises very bad!) Hollywood loves to cast regular churchgoers in villainous cloth, and perhaps I won’t condemn such lazy thinking, writing, and discrimination on the Van Dykes as I have read this was a significant component of Lebbon’s book.
Alas, it’s a muddled development that stinks loudly in the last reel, diverting the film away from its middling grasp as horror in favor of slinging cheap shots at fellow Americans. After that, the picture gives way to a fabricated happy ending along with anything remotely resembling closure. We’re left with Ally’s narration about who’ll survive quicker: man or beast. I’m hoping it’s the audience.
The Silence (2019) was produced by Constantin Films and EMJAG Productions. It is currently available for streaming on Netflix. As for the technical specifications? This thriller/chiller has many sequences that rather expertly make use of some reasonably budgeted special effects, so kudos to all the craftsmen and women who made this one work as well as it did in those sequences.
At its core, The Silence (2019) isn’t so much an authentic Horror film as much as it is a traditional monster movie. Though this monster is (seemingly) everywhere (as opposed to, say, Frankenstein, who can only be at one place at one time), these bats-on-steroids fulfill many of the same requirements of the popular sub-genre. Yet, they don’t play on our sympathies the way the Wolfman or a familiar neighbor being bitten by a zombie might. Here, you’re supposed to only feel for the victims, so it helps that the movie is populated by a trove of familiar faces. (You know … the bald guy from that one flick? He’s too big name a star is die in this. And he doesn’t. Neither does she. Or the kid. Everybody else? They’re goners, for sure.)