Film Review | The Silence: Looking for another quiet place

The latest offering in post-apocalyptic horror from the Netflix stable is little more than a lazy slab of B-movie film-making that’s dead on the page and stillborn on screen

Stanley Tucci (left) and Kiernan Shipka star in The Silence
Stanley Tucci (left) and Kiernan Shipka star in The Silence

John Krasinski has a lot to answer for. The actor-turned-director’s horror smash hit A Quiet Place (2018) appears to have paved the way for a slew of facile imitators already, and it’s not hard to see why that should be the case: ‘keep quiet or the monsters that have ravaged the earth will get you too’ is certainly a quick and dirty way of upping tension and ensuring the audience is glued to the screen.

But while the Sandra Bullock-starring Birdbox, which popped up on our Netflix rolodex last November, may have had some redeeming stretches of genuine tension, the streaming service’s attempts to strike (fool’s) gold twice doesn’t quite yield up the desired results.

Adapting the 2015 novel of the same name by the prolific British genre author Tim Lebbon, director John R. Leonetti works off a script by Carey and Shane Van Dyke to tell the story of Ally Andrews (Mad Men/Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Kiernan Shipka), a deaf high school girl whose family is uprooted from their home when a swarm of formerly cave-bound, carnivorous flying creatures – subsequently dubbed ‘vesps’ – are accidentally unleashed upon a world very much vulnerable to their assault.

Though the reassuring presence of their sensitive but pragmatic engineer father, Hugh (Stanley Tucci) and his best friend Glenn (John Corbett) manages to keep them safe for a short while, the odds are hardly on their side. But a sliver of hope comes in the form of a strategic realisation. These bat-like creatures can hear, but not see. And for a family acclimatised to a deaf member – and completed by the matriarch Kelly (Shipka’s ‘Sabrina’ co-star Miranda Otto), Kelly’s own mother Lynn (Kate Trotter) and Ally’s younger brother Jude (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf) – this edge may just about prove to be a saving grace.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with made-to-measure genre films that prioritise efficiency over originality: if there’s fun to be had, then we should just have it. The problem with The Silence is that we are always one step ahead of a plot that is both generic, and worse still, a product of oversaturation. If you haven’t yet seen Birdbox, chances are you’ve watched A Quiet Place, and this offers very little to enjoy that hasn’t already been done better in either of the above.

A typically likeable turn from Stanley Tucci works wonders with limited material to make his Hugh a patriarch worth rooting for: he may be the bespectacled nerdy double to the more alpha male Glenn, but it is his engineer’s intuition – his ability to rapidly pick up how mechanisms tick – that helps save the day. Quiet moments of bonding with his daughter also help to add something resembling humanity, as the charismatic Shipka is plucky and determined, even if her deafness is pretty much waved away by cinematic short-hand… likely a move to ensure the audience isn’t too bugged by signing and voice-overs, but which only dampens the verisimilitude of the world that’s presented.

That’s not to say that this Netflix streamer is entirely a waste of time if you’re up for some generic pap. Things accelerate past the one-hour mark, and this B-movie is at its best when it embraces its inner schlock. But the eleventh-hour appearance of a creepy cult leader (Billy MacLellan) comes as yet another deflating reminder that there will be no surprises here. 

The verdict

Though it does pick up steam somewhat as the final act hurtles down to an inevitable close, The Silence offers nothing that’s new or thrilling in a landscape already oversaturated with cookie-cutter post-apocalyptic horror. Though the leads do their utmost to humanise characters who are dead on the page, flat-and-bland photography certainly doesn’t help to immerse us in a story that’s more interested in ticking off story beats than pulling us into the proceedings.

The Silence is currently streaming on Netflix