The Silence: John R Leonetti's post-apocalyptic horror-thriller is poorly written, incoherent

Bhaskar Chattopadhyay

Apr 23, 2019 13:02:28 IST

In the history of cinema, there have been numerous occasions when films with the same central premise or idea have come and battled for public attention in quick succession. We must be going through another such phase now, in which there is the core notion of a dystopian future where predators prey over helpless humans, hunting solely based on a singular sensory perception, in as many as three recent movies. Last year, it was John Krasinski’s much-lauded horror thriller A Quiet Place, starring Emily Blunt and himself. Then came Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, starring Sandra Bullock. And now, there’s The Silence by cinematographer and filmmaker John R Leonetti, which also attempts to tell a similar story of shock and horror, with very little success.

The Silence: John R Leonettis post-apocalyptic horror-thriller is poorly written, incoherent

The Silence poster.

An American family including a child who has lost her power of hearing seems to be doing exceptionally well to cope with the loss, when disaster strikes in another part of the globe - a group of cave divers accidentally open up a dungeon deep under the surface of the earth, one that has been buried since prehistoric times, and houses several monstrous winged creatures or vesps, which feed on human flesh with Piranha-like precision and aggression. Good news is that these devils are blind. Bad news is that their sense of hearing is acute. With failed attempts to contain the massive infestation, a state of emergency is declared in the United States, and amidst this, the family comprising a middle-aged couple, their deaf daughter, son and the woman’s asthmatic grandmother set out with a family friend in the search for a better shelter. They soon realise it was a bad idea, with bloodthirsty creatures – both human and non-human – hot on their trail.

Rarely does one come across such a poorly written script. The film’s screenplay is an absolute drivel, with no character development, laughable scenes that are supposed to be scary and unnecessary elements that do nothing to enhance the principal story itself. Let me put it this way - there are literally zero scares in the film, and at any given point of time during its 90 minute running length, the only anxiety one feels comes from the worry about how much more of this obnoxious movie is left. The introduction of the plot point around a religious cult almost seems like a last-minute patch job, carried out simply because nothing else was working in the story. Loose ends, an absolutely ridiculous climax and some very poor action scenes are the highlights of this sacrilege of a script.

The production value too is laughable. The vesps themselves look ridiculously like '90s visual effects jobs. The gory carcasses that they leave behind look fake from a mile away. All these lead to an absolute vacuum of dread. There are several continuity problems, and the editing is exceptionally poor. Leonetti himself is a cinematographer, and I had expected at least some good camerawork in the film, if not anything else. But even that was not to be. The background score is so void of impact, that for extended periods of time, I didn’t even realise it was there.

Coming to the performances, Stanley Tucci tries to salvage the situation to some extent, putting in his best, under the circumstances. Miranda Otto is quite decent as Tucci’s wife, who has to deal with her daughter’s condition and her mother’s ailment – both at the same time. The presence of a boy in her teenaged daughter’s life is another of her concerns, and she manages to let all the desperation show on her face. Kiernan Shipka plays the central character of the film, who battles with memories of an accident that killed her grandparents and left her deprived of her sense of hearing. Shipka is good in parts, at best, although it is easy to see that she has hardly received any ‘direction’ from the captain of the ship at all.

John Leonetti’s film The Silence is a cheap, tacky and incoherent B-grade movie at best, and although rife with Biblical references and symbolisms of the plague, the one true sin you will find in the film is its screenplay. I wish I could have at least something nice to say about the film, but I don’t.

The Silence is currently streaming on Netflix.

Updated Date: Apr 23, 2019 13:02:28 IST

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