The Silence Roars
The Silence is a new film based on an older book by author Tim Lebbon and is available on Netflix. It’s the story of an apocalypse, one started by an ancient species of creatures that are released from a cave in the southern United States who quickly multiply and spread throughout the Eastern Seaboard and further. They hunt by sound, look like vampire bat monsters, and attack without mercy. One family flees their home seeking to outrun the infestation but find life isn’t that easy, and the horror is spreading more quickly than they could ever imagine. Oh, and there’s some asshole humans out there, ready to make things much worse.
Does this sound familiar? This past year or so we’ve gotten two other movies (A Quiet Place and Bird Box) concerning creatures that hunt by sound and how a “normal” American family learns how to survive in this demanding new world where the humans are now the hunted. The Silence follows some of the same patterns and beats, but unlike the other two films, this one actually delivers characters you care about and posits the family into the beginning of the crisis, not mostly after the world has been mostly destroyed. This dynamic allows us to experience the horror as it unfolds (Bird Box does this also, but it’s narrative jumps around, and the characters aren’t very likable, to say the least), from the initial attack in the caves to the spreading chaos that follows. We get to see bits of society breaking down, but it’s almost exclusively from the viewpoint of this family as it struggles to survive.
The story is told by 16 year old Ally (Kiernan Shipka), a girl who lost her hearing in an automobile accident several years earlier. This change in dynamic forced the family to learn sign language, which comes to help them quite a bit when things get bad. But this is really their only advantage over most others, because when the creatures start to spread, eventually interrupting the family’s flight to the west, Ally and her mother, father, brother, and grandmother, have to learn how to survive. They are a smart bunch, and while they make mistakes, they quickly adapt, finding refuge in a house in the wilderness. Along the way, they have to make some sacrifices and it’s in these moments that the film really captures your empathy. I won’t give it away, but there’s a heart-wrenching scene with the family dog that displays more pathos and genuine care than both Bird Box and Quiet Place combined. And in the end, this layering of character is what distinguishes this film from the other two, making it far superior, in my mind.
Basically, what you’ve got here is a good, old-fashioned monster movie, with a lot of heart and soul and just enough of the wet stuff to keep more hardened horror fans interested. The story zips along, nothing feels out of place or forced, and the showdown at the end with an emergent cult and the family is both scary and tense. When you want the villains to die in a very messy way, the movie you’re watching has done its job.
The Silence isn’t new, it isn’t inventive, and it might seem tired. But I say give it a watch. It’s much better, in my opinion, than the two films that came before it. This one gets it right. A Quiet Place chokes on its pretension and over-acting, Bird Box is mostly just a mess, but The Silence is monster movie madness at its streamlined best. This one doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it sure knows how to spin the tires and move the car along. It hugs the road real nice.
The Silence (as of this writing) is streaming on Netflix.
Three Stars out of Four