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Do you like small, winged killing machines? How about a plot that draws from the Dracula legend, or one that makes a heavy reference to the Dark Ages?
The Silence immediately caught my attention because of all three when it popped up on Netflix. Based on a novel by Tim Lebbon, the film follows a family on the eve of an apocalypse. When a research team opens up a cave and lets loose an ancient, carnivorous, bat species, Hugh, Kelly, and their children Jude and Ally seek refuge. Unfortunately this escape is ruined by a murderous cult that wants to induct Hugh’s daughter into their ranks.
That seems like a lot to put into a single movie, but The Silence handles it admirably. I guess. I’m still not sure, to be honest.
I actually enjoyed this film, despite some weird elements towards the end. The pacing was great, and the film moved along seamlessly from one event to the next without feeling like it was lingering too long on a particular spot.
The actors were also great across the board, and the characters were engaging with the brief time that we spent with them. There were also plenty of terrifying moments.
It was interesting to see how the film alluded so heavily to the Dracula myths, and how the bat-like creatures—vesps—were implied to be a remnant of this era. While the film never outright states that the creatures are related to the original legend, it makes a strong inference to it through the opening credits, the religious symbolism, and the design of the creatures themselves.
Additionally, the end of the film wrapped up really nicely. Without getting into the details: it’s pretty rare to have such a satisfying end to a horror film when the apocalypse is still ongoing.
Unfortunately, The Silence wasn’t perfect. Nothing is.
Before we get into this critique, it needs to be acknowledged that The Silence was working from a book. As such, not all of the blame lies with the filmmakers.
I also don’t want to give the impression that this film is bad, by any stretch of the imagination. Unfortunately I couldn’t get over its similarities to A Quiet Place. Both films feature strikingly similar plots.
It’s not unusual for separate teams to come up with the same ideas around the same time. Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror is a good example of this. As far as I can tell, both A Quiet Place and The Silence started production around the same time. You can even make an argument that The Silence predates it, due to the fact that it’s based on a novel.
Sadly—when the two films are so close to one another in subject matter—you can’t help but compare them. Both movies feature blind, bat-like creatures with hypersensitive hearing that eat people. Both feature apocalyptic worlds where you must be silent or face certain death.
In both films, the families that are at the center of these dramas are prepared for this silence by the fact that their teenage daughters are deaf, which has allowed them to learn ASL (American Sign Language).
Sadly, A Quiet Place handles all three of these topics better. The one area where the two films differ—the cult of The Hushed in The Silence—could have been cut. I really wasn’t a fan.
Spoilers: In The Silence, a doomsday cult quickly rises up in the wake of so much devastation. This cult, led by a rogue preacher, believes the end times are nigh. They cut out their own tongues to live in silence.
When the cult crosses paths with Hugh, we get a whole, convoluted drama where the leader tries to kidnap his daughter in order to “breed” her. The main plot with the vesps is dropped and honestly my stomach churned.
This subplot wasn’t needed from a storytelling perspective. The vesps are already terrifying. As mentioned in our review of Love, Death, and Robots, you do not need the threat of sexual assault to motivate a female character to violence. As I haven’t read the book I can’t say how much of this plot comes from the source material, and how much of it was included by the filmmakers.
Either way, I’m unhappy.
Despite this hangup, The Silence is a fast-paced horror film. If you’re looking for a lower budget alternative to A Quiet Place featuring medieval monsters, it’s probably something you’d like to watch.