The Silence is an original Netflix horror film directed by John R. Leonetti and starring Stanley Tucci, Kiernan Shipka, and Miranda Otto. Like many Netflix original movies, The Silence has an interesting, albeit unoriginal, premise, a few genuinely impressive scenes, and fantastic sound design. Also like other Netflix originals, it is held back by a weak script, awful digital effects, and uninspired performances from the supporting cast.
The movie focuses on a family, as they try to survive an extinction-level invasion of murderous bird-like monsters that had been trapped underground for thousands of years. The catch, just like last year’s A Quiet Place, is that the creatures are blind and can only detect prey with their acute sense of hearing. The similarities between The Silence and A Quiet Place don’t stop there—a lot of the problems with the earlier of the two pop back up in the more recently released version of the same story. Like in A Quiet Place, in The Silence, one of the family members is deaf, so the whole family knows sign language, giving them an added communication advantage.
A handful of brilliant sequences take advantage of the plot’s need for silence. Hugh Andrews (Tucci) and his daughter Ally (Shipka) try to loot an abandoned store when a few of the creatures, which are referred to as “Vesps,” appear, and they talk to each other in sign, as they try to silently set off the fire sprinklers to ward them off. It’s a very tense moment, and the sound editing and mixing add so much to the pressure it builds throughout the scene. There are a few other awesome sequences that would spoil the film if mentioned, but they achieve the same effect as the fire sprinkler scene.
The performances from the starring cast range from serviceable to great, as Tucci, Shipka and Otto are all very believable in their roles. The supporting cast lets them down, however, as nobody outside of that main trio of actors behaves like a real person, and a few of them are so unconvincing that they make it hard for the film to sustain its immersion. The villain (Billy MacLellan) might as well have been an alien from another planet, because nothing he does makes any sense and his facial expressions are so forced and obnoxious that it seems like he’s trying to play charades with the audience, and the word he’s acting out is some kind of ambiguous emotion. It’s laughable.
The dreadful CGI in The Silence only adds to the effect of broken immersion. There is never a moment throughout the movie where the monsters look like anything other than animated birds with dinosaur mouths. When making a horror movie, it tends to be a good idea to go out of your way to make sure the thing the audience is supposed to be afraid of is, you know, scary. It’s very difficult to be terrified by a bird-dinosaur hybrid that looks like it belongs in an old PlayStation rendition of the Silent Hill franchise. The Vesps might as well have been the monsters in one of those SyFy channel flicks where the producers purposely make the creatures look terrible to either preserve budget or turn the film into a “so bad that it’s good” kind of movie (re: Sharknado). There’s even a scene with a rattlesnake where the animal that actually exists in real life still manages to look hilariously fake. It’s really amateur work considering how far computer animation has progressed over the past decade or so, and even average graphics production would have improved this movie significantly.
As if the performances and visuals weren’t immersion-breaking enough, the script removes any remaining shred of believability. There is no indication of passage of time throughout the whole movie, and some characters act like years have passed while others make it seem like the Vesps’ initial attack happened no longer than a week before.
The villains have a motive that makes no sense whatsoever, and despite a phenomenally tense scene between them and the main family, the segments of the film involving them feel useless and inserted for the sake of creating unearned conflict. The ending is even worse, as the plot abruptly works itself out and ends without warning or understandable resolution. The family just happens to find a way to get where they’re going without a car or any discernible navigation method. In essence, the ending feels like a punch in the face to anyone who actually took the time to watch the whole movie.
The Silence is a badly made movie with a few brilliant moments of tension that make it at least partially worth the watch. Don’t expect a horror masterpiece, or even something as good as A Quiet Place, but instead a 90-minute movie that may or may not feel like a total waste of time.
Featured Image by Netflix