Netflix’s newest horror film, The Silence, has been receiving a lot of negative attention and unfair comparisons to 2018’s A Quiet Place. What you may be surprised to learn is that The Silence is actually based on a novel by Tim Lebbon, published three years prior to the theatrical release of A Quiet Place. That being said, the timing of this film in a post A Quiet Place world is surely detrimental.
The Silence opens with a research team in an uncharted section of caves in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania breaking through a cave wall. Suddenly hundreds of bat-like/pterodactyl creatures, later called Vesps, come flying out of the hole and tear through the research team. Elsewhere, we’re introduced to a deaf teenager named Ally (Kiernan Shipka) and her family, who live in New Jersey. That evening the Ally is suddenly awoken by her mother to a news story stating that there is an emergency and people should stay indoors and not make any noise. The family, which also includes Ally’s younger brother, grandmother, the family dog, and her dad’s best friend Uncle Glenn, have an unfair advantage in this catastrophe, already very familiar with living in silence and using sign language. The family quickly adapts to this new life and heads north seeking shelter to survive.
While people continue to compare this film to A Quiet Place, there were many things that The Silence got right in my opinion. As soon as the news stories break about the Vesp attacks, the family has already covered the fireplace with plastic sheeting to prevent any from getting in and they all agree to turn the volume off their phones. Because we are all familiar with horror films, we (as an audience) spend the whole movie waiting for one of the kids to get attacked because they refused to silence their phone- but thankfully this never happens.
The Vesps are presented as blind mini-pterodactyls that attack based on noise. Once they hear something they flock towards it. Visually it harkens back to those images of people being attcked in Hitchcock’s classic The Birds. But the Vesps cannot see as they have no eyes, presumably due to surviving in those undiscovered caves from the beginning. Early on, Hugh, Ally’s father, learns they are blind after they attack a thrown crow bar. Other than that we are not given many details about these creatures.
Casting choices are a strength worth pointing out. Obviously Kiernan Shipka, who plays Ally, is well known as Sabrina now in Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, but her parents are played by Miranda Otto (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) and Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada), both of whom I did not expect to see in a horror film. The cast is rounded out with John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) as Uncle Glenn, and Kate Trotter (Great Expectations) as Ally’s grandmother. Overall it is a pretty star studded cast, highlighting the kind of weight Netflix films have now.
The Silence did not try my patience in the same way A Quiet Place did, which I will admit I did not enjoy. However, for a film with a roughly 90 minute running time, introducing a secondary antagonist 60 minutes in was not the wisest choice. Ally once mentions a religious cult that is killing atheists in the middle of all of this and then during a detour into town Ally and her father are approached by a reverend who communicated by writing in a notebook asking them to join. Eventually the reverend and his group, The Hushed, arrive at the home, looking to take Ally with them.
It’s an unnecessary plot point that seems forced and one of many loose ends that were probably much more developed in the novel but fell off the screenplay. The Hushed is never further explored. When you’re two thirds of the way through the film, it becomes easy to stop caring about what is happening when you know there isn’t enough time left to get invested. The film also shows Vesp eggs in the dead bodies of those the Vesps have slaughtered – never discussed. The film also mentions “The Grey”, which are supposedly important areas where there is no communication, no signal, no wifi, etc. – also, never discussed further.
Overall, The Silence suffers from being released so soon after A Quiet Place and not fully developing everything they wanted in such a short amount of time. The casting is strong with a great deal of veteran actors leading the film, and I believe if the film was released prior to A Quiet Place it would be received much better. Unfortunately, the things this film does well does not make up for the number of things that go wrong. With an extra 30 minutes added to its running time, the film could have been much more fleshed out and concise. Instead we received a film that started off strong but rushed to find some type on conclusion.
Did you get the chance to see The Silence yet? Let us know what you thought of the film in the comments below, or on Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, and in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!