REVIEW: The Silence (2019)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of The Silence — Directed by John R. Leonetti.

John R. Leonetti’s The Silence — not to be confused with Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which has a similar title, or John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place and Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, both of which have similar plots — follows a family during an apocalyptic event in which prehistoric bat-like creatures have come out of hiding to attack and feast on anything and anyone they hear. Stanley Tucci plays the family father, Miranda Otto his wife, and Kiernan Shipka plays one of his children — a deaf teenager.

John R. Leonetti has one of the worst track-records for a professional filmmaker that I’ve ever encountered. Leonetti was the man behind the Conjuring-spin-off Annabelle, as well as one of the absolute worst films of 2017, Wish Upon, which I despised. Still, though, I believe in progress, and I was hopeful that perhaps this was Leonetti’s first step in the right direction — a film that might deserve a big audience because it showcased his skills in a way Wish Upon, Annabelle, or Mortal Kombat: Annihilation perhaps didn’t. The Silence is not that film. The Silence is yet another less-than-satisfying Leonetti-film, to say the least.

I think I have to state the obvious, that even though The Silence was released an entire year after A Quiet Place came out, it, not unlike Bird Box, was based on a novel that was released prior to the success of Krasinski’s horror-thriller hit, A Quiet Place. Nevertheless, the saying rightly goes: first in, best dressed. The Silence feels and looks like a derivative, inferior product when compared with A Quiet Place and even Netflix’s own Bird Box, and Leonetti’s film cannot possibly escape those comparisons. The sensory-based apocalyptic horror-thrillers are getting old, by now.

On top of that, I think this film has some serious issues. For one, the film’s drab, brown and greyish color grading is decidedly ugly and unpleasant to look at. I think the deaf community will be fuming about this film as the one deaf character in the film — and, by extension, her condition — is presented inconsistently. Furthermore, Leonetti’s film almost ignores her condition when it was clearly set up to be an important part of the film. The characters in the film speak about as much as they use sign language and that is pretty odd when you consider that this is a horror-thriller about needing to stay silent featuring an entire family that, seemingly, knows ASL well. The fact that Shipka’s deaf character is so incredibly skilled at reading lips makes her condition less significant. It almost feels like the filmmakers did whatever they could to get around using subtitles.

I was also really frustrated by how disastrously stupid some of the characters in the film are. After news clips make it painfully clear that they should stay quiet, one supporting character befuddlingly calls out: “What the hell does that mean, ‘don’t make a noise’?” You would think that was fairly obvious, especially when minor characters are literally willing to kill creatures for making noise. Speaking of which, one of the best examples of the idiocy of the characters in The Silence is the scene in which one stranger points a shotgun towards Shipka’s deaf character and her dog. The stranger is upset that the dog is barking and making noise, so what does he do? He fires a round into the sky to bring attention to himself and the gravity of the situation — not realizing that said shotgun blast is even noisier. Also, at one point, cars on a freeway are literally honking at each other out of frustration unnecessarily.

The Silence is also poorly structured, unexciting, and never scary even once. The creatures, though not poorly designed, are shown way too much for them to be scary. There is an overuse of slow-motion — especially in one pivotal scene. Also, at one point, a crazy cult is thrown into the second half of the film out of nowhere. Their lazy inclusion feels like an afterthought, and they are almost unintentionally funny as they sometimes disappear as if they are supernatural and stick their cut-off tongues out to appear threatening.

The best thing about John R. Leonetti’s The Silence is that it retroactively makes John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, which was already quite good, so much better, as Leonetti’s film does everything Krasinski’s did only much worse. Leonetti’s adaptation of Tim Lebbon’s novel is drab, humdrum, and trite.

2 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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