I wasn't sure what to expect with John Leonetti's The Silence that dropped on Netflix this week. It was adapted from the 2015 book of the same name by Tim Lebbon. Based on the description, I had a hunch I wasn't going to be moved, but at the same time I was hoping to be proven wrong. With a promising cast, I was sure there would be something memorable about this film. The beginning credits felt like I was watching a new series rather than a feature, which makes me wonder if that's what this should have been instead.
Experiencing this film was like eating a hollow eclair. You know it isn't going to be the tastiest thing ever, but then you bite in and it's missing the most important ingredient and you're just stuck saying, "okay, honestly, what gives?” I'm not sure how this was categorized as a horror because it is most certainly not. It's a thriller, and arguably science fiction. It was a horror novel, which I haven't read, but that wasn't executed here. The course of this film was trying to build suspense the whole time to finish big, but somehow deeply failed to do either.
The first two acts use Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later formula by replacing the zombies with blind vampire bats called "vesps" that rely on their hearing to prey. It focuses on a family on the run to seek refuge from the vesps invading their city after busting out of a cave. They must keep quiet in order to avoid the tiny devils. Their leg up is being able to sign to each other since the daughter Ally became deaf as a child. With Ally's access to the internet throughout most of their journey, they learn about the vesps and how to adapt as they go. It is also discovered that this tragic event is being utilized to sacrifice atheists to the vesps by religious cults. The bulk of the story is dragged out and quite the eye roll if you've seen similar films like this. That isn't to say it's condescending to the audience, but it fails to provide much to marvel over. By act three, ya know... towards the END of the film, a cult wreaks havoc on the family at their place of refuge after Stanley Tucci tells them to buzz off. Even then, there is little to no pay off and this B-plot gets clogged in the drain. The end rushes itself and tries to do too much in the last ten minutes. It's apparent there was far more source material than the screenwriters allotted themselves to map out into a sensible script.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I don't understand how they got this stellar cast with such a B-list script of an overdone concept. With leads played by Kiernan Shipka, Stanley Tucci supported by Miranda Otto, Kate Trotter and John Corbett, everyone did an okay job with the mediocre direction they had. Their chemistry was strong as a family. The cult leader played by Billy MacLellan was sinister and mysterious and left me angry we didn't meet him sooner. However, Stanley Tucci- I mean, the whole cast, deserved better.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
I assumed the sound design would be the most thought out aspect of this piece. There were several moments where we get the POV of Ally with her absent hearing, which are great, but it isn't done enough to intensify anything. The volume of sounds that attract the vesps seems inconsistent based on what the film needs the characters to do at certain points. I know for a fact I wouldn't survive hiding from these things as my stomach grumbles when I know I have to be dead silent. With all that aside, there is one notable scene where technology is used to lure the vesps that is the most nerve racking part of the whole film.
For some obviously computerized bats, they look pretty good. The brisk autumn setting is on point and very reminiscent of The Road. The cinematography doesn't add to any "horror" or even "thrilling" achievements. The color grading and contrast is what makes it nice to look at and keep watching.
With all these modern thrillers that play on our senses, The Silence doesn't really do anything innovative. The one thing I can argue is that it emphasizes the existence of technology sustaining in the midst of a catastrophe in a semi believable way. If you enjoy this type of cinema, then by all means, stream away. Moving forward, my wish is for Netflix to focus on polished scripts instead of pumping out filler films to keep up with trends.