The Silence review: Netflix's latest A Quiet Place knock-off, aka Fear and Loathing in Bat Country

Prahlad Srihari

Apr 12, 2019 12:53:45 IST


Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Cast: Kiernan Shipka, Stanley Tucci, Miranda Otto, John Corbett, Kate Trotter

Director: John R. Leonetti

Somewhere deep beneath an underground cavern, something shockingly dreadful is accidentally unleashed upon the world: It's a near-unwatchable disaster of a Netflix horror movie called The Silence.

The Silence review: Netflixs latest A Quiet Place knock-off, aka Fear and Loathing in Bat Country

Stanley Tucci and Kiernan Shipka in a still from The Silence. Netflix

Welcome to Bat Country. Sorry, Raoul Duke is not on another mescaline trip. It is literally bat country in The Silence after a carnivorous swarm of sightless creatures take over the United States (and possibly the world?). Known as 'vesps', they hunt by sound and kill everything in their path. So, the human race faces extinction yet again.

And if humans are to survive in this Quiet Place, they must learn to adapt to a new ecosystem where they are no longer at the top of the food chain. This lesson in survival is led by the teenaged heroine Ally (Kiernan Shipka) and her family. Having lost her hearing after a car accident, Ally has an advantage over the other human survivors — because she already possesses the skills to survive in a world without sound. And so does her family, who can all communicate in sign language. But, as we have learnt from years of reading and watching post-apocaylptic novels and films, our fellow human beings can often become a bigger threat than the nefarious creatures in the new world order.

Following the success of A Quiet Place and Netflix's own Bird Box, you would think the script for The Silence was written by the streaming giant's recommendation algorithm. And it's hard to ignore the similarities in the basic premise of the three films: Mysterious creatures, with irrelevant motivations, have left humanity clinging to survive. All three films are supposed metaphors of the fears of parenthood — about raising children amid nightmarish circumstances in a dangerous world.

They all use a similar tactic, that of sensory deprivation, to tap into our fears. A Quiet Place and The Silence deprives its characters of their speech while Bird Box takes away their sight. So, even a simple seemingly innocuous action can have fatal consequences and this drives the tension in these films. However, as we learn, a character's disability can work to their advantage as opposed to becoming a setback.

But the similarities end there. While the sensory deprivation gimmick is used effectively in A Quiet Place to create a relentlessly tense environment, it doesn't even induce a mild shudder in The Silence. Even Bird Box, which failed miserably in its execution of an intriguing premise, was at least intermittently thrilling.

Interestingly however, The Silence is based on British horror writer Tim Lebbon's novel of the same name, which came out in 2015 — a couple of years before A Quiet Place began filming. But filtered through the mind of a screenwriter known for such unabashedly Z-grade straight-to-video titles like A Haunting in Salem, Transmorphers: Fall of Man, Titanic II and Paranormal Entity, The Silence is the kind of bland, derivative horror yarn you invariable end up with.

A family struggles to survive in a world overrun by carnivorous bats in The Silence. Netflix

A family struggles to survive in a world overrun by carnivorous bats in The Silence. Netflix

The dialogue is boilerplate; the characters and their relationships are haphazardly established; the plot haemorrhages from one manufactured sequence to another — with a needless expository voice-over narration appearing at random intervals to fill in the blanks. Often, the joy of watching mediocre horror films lies in guessing who, if anyone, will survive. But director John R. Leonetti deprives us of even that simple pleasure by speeding up the ending and hurrying the story across the finish line. In a pre-Netflix era, this utterly forgettable film too would have gone straight to video.

Netflix has somehow managed to coerce Kiernan Shipka and Miranda Otto to take some time off from their Chilling Adventures of Sabrina commitments. But the bigger mystery is how they convinced Stanley Tucci to parrot such appallingly contrived dialogue.

Maybe, The Silence would have been better served if it was turned into a series rather than a film. World building is an essential aspect in stories like Bird Box and The Silence and an episodic narrative would have helped better establish the societal structures, power dynamics and whatever little technological dependence remains in the new world order. The format would also have provided the time and space to sufficiently flesh out the characters and the narrative.

But instead, Netflix has given us a film filled with glaring plot holes and characters you don't spend enough time with to care about. Thus, The Silence feels like the result of a corporate memo compelling filmmakers to make more A Quiet Place knock-offs — and hoping to turn sensory horror into a profitable new sub-genre.

The Silence is now streaming on Netflix.

Updated Date: Apr 14, 2019 09:54:21 IST

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