'The Silence' - A Review (Netflix)
I watch them so you don't have to.
How did Stanley Tucci end up in this? He needs to speak to his agent. Not that the rest of the cast cannot act, they undoubtedly can. John Corbett—a name not as well known as Tucci’s, but an actor whose face you will know—has appeared in far better fare than this, and also should be speaking to his agent.
The Silence, the latest horror offering from Netflix, sees the Andrews' family taking to the road when a plague of Vespas—sort of a mixture of a bat and a piranha fish, not the popular Italian moped—attacks North America eating and killing every living thing in their path. The Vespas are attracted by sound.
Ally—Kiernan Shipka, better known as Netflix’s Sabrina—is deaf, having lost her hearing in an accident two years before. Conveniently, for the film, she speaks perfectly. Not that that matters. Thirty minutes in and I had to put on the subtitles as the whole family, because of Ally and the Vespa threat, communicates in sign language. I had no idea what was going on.
As the threat escalates, the Andrews—Mum Kelly (Miranda Otto), Dad Hugh (Tucci), Ally, younger brother Jude (Kyle Breitkopf) and their sickly grandmother, Lynn (Kate Trotter) plus the dog and their single male neighbour, John Corbett’s Glenn, who initially leads—take to the road.
The signpost for who is going to die first is almost neon-lit. Glenn’s single, the best friend of Hugh, has no family, and is a man’s man when leading the trip. Of course, it is all going to go badly for him. He goes off the road and his Jeep flips over as he tries to avoid hitting some deer. He, trapped in his Jeep anyway, then sacrifices himself to save the family from the Vespas.
Next to die is the dog. It’s a dog—silence is not a thing for a dog and it is going to get everybody killed. Hugh, now forced to lead after his best friend's death, releases the dog, much to Ally’s distress. Driving is too dangerous, so the family decides to proceed on foot.
As they search for somewhere to stay for the night, they come across a house surrounded by a metal fence. As they approach the house and pull on the fence, bells at the top of the fence clang.
An ornery old woman (Barbara Gordon) comes out and starts to scream at them to get off of her land. She, obviously, is oblivious to the countrywide Vespa panic. Her screaming attracts her imminent and immediate death.
Now with somewhere to stay, the Andrews settle in. Unfortunately, Kelly had been bitten by one of the Vespas when they were trying to get into the house and needs antibiotics. Hugh and Ally go to the local town to see if they can find some.
In the town, Ally comes across a horrifying discovery when she sees several corpses hosting eggs for the Vespas. They also meet The Reverend (Billy MacLelland), a creepy fellow who wants them to join him. They decline. The Reverend’s tongue is cut out.
Later, back at the house, the Reverend turns up with several others. He wants Ally. Apparently, she is fertile. The family retreat to the house. Night falls and a young girl turns up outside of the house. They let her in and she turns out to be part of the Reverend’s flock. She has a raft of mobile phones attached to her torso. When they all start to alarm, the Vespas swarm on the house.
As the Vespas attack happens, the Reverend’s people snatch Ally. Grandma Lynn follows after them, grabs a couple of them allowing Ally to escape and then screams her head off. The Vespas do the rest. More people grab Ally—where all of these people have come from is anybody’s guess —the family is now fighting and killing random Reverend followers, trying to stop Ally from getting snatched. Hugh kills the Reverend and the rest scatter.
The family head north, where it is colder and the Vespas have not adapted to the climate as yet, and meet up with other survivors. The end.
Deep breath. This film is a good story badly executed. Based on a novel by Tim Lebbon, the idea of an unknown, bloodthirsty species wanting to eat everything is hardly a groundbreaking one. People getting eaten is a horror staple. The slight—very slight—twist of the monsters reacting to sound is only a moderate improvement.
The problem with this film is the pacing, with it starting off quite briskly and then coming to an almost dead stop in the middle and then struggling to squeeze in what should have been the second and third act into the final fifteen minutes of the movies, similar to the Josh Trank’s confusing Fantastic Four. Though it is not as bad as that. When I say not as bad, I do not mean it is a better film. It's not.
The other pacing problem is the script by Carey and Shane Van Dyke. The actors spoke as though they were reading a lot of the time, the cadence unnatural and flat. None of the characters had individual voices, their speech patterns almost identical, making character differentiation muted.
The plot point of having Ally as deaf is more convenient than meaningful, and, as I mentioned earlier, I was forced to switch to subtitles half an hour into the film.
They also went with the dreaded voiceover, Ally spouting some nonsense about being apparently special since her accident. That particular plot point goes absolutely nowhere.
The film is ably if not especially excitingly, directed by John R. Leonetti. There is a frankly pointless, point of view shot he uses when the initial Vespa panic begins, seeing the world from Ally’s view. As it is never used again, it just pulls you out of the film.
I would not go as far as to say it is unwatchable, but it is poorly executed and because of that the glaring potholes in the film are apparent—how many Vespas? Really? Hugh kills a load of them with a wood chopper. Why wouldn’t he leave it on? Or even go back to it?
At ninety minutes long and with the bad pacing, The Silence is too short for the story it tries to tell. Like many people will be, I was pulled in by the fact that Stanley Tucci is in this film.
Unlike many, I can turn the downside—terrible film—into an upside—I review it. Save yourself the time and do not watch The Silence. You’re welcome.