Available In Theaters, On Demand and On Digital August 14, 2020
Synopsis: A reformed hunter living in isolation on a wildlife sanctuary becomes involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse when he and the local Sheriff set out to track a vicious killer who may have kidnapped his daughter years ago.
Stars: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Annabelle Wallis, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Josh Cruddas, Zahn McClarnon, Melanie Scrofano, Shaun Smyth
Director: Robin Pront
Running Length: 93 minutes
TMMM Score: (5/10)
Review: When talking about The Silencing I think it’s important to focus first and foremost on the good news of the situation. While the new serial killer flick didn’t manage to make its debut at the South by Southwest film festival in Austin Texas this past March as intended, it is getting a nice release on demand and might stand a chance to do well for viewers in need of a quick thrill. It also can’t be stressed enough that these middle of the road films harken back to a simpler time of B-movie filmmaking (we’re talking the late 70s through the mid-90s) when you could get one of these genre films every few weeks at your local cineplex. In that respect, I say bring on more films of its kind and start making them soon – they fill a kind of Wednesday evening void that I need in my life.
Then there’s the other side of the coin where you have to step back and admit that a lot of The Silencing isn’t very good and aside from a strong lead performance from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and a secondary character that might just be more interesting than the supposed star, it’s mostly forgettable. Though it starts with some promise it will deliver on its premise of a fine mystery solved by ordinary people that act like human beings, it oddly shifts gears several times so that eventually you don’t know what direction the action is headed…and not in a good way. So maybe I’d like to amend my earlier statement and say that I’d appreciate more movies like The Silencing…just not like The Silencing.
Haunted by the disappearance of his daughter five years ago, Rayburn Swanson (Coster-Waldau, Headhunters) has turned his large area of land into a wildlife sanctuary in her honor. Though he continues to search for her by putting up fliers and combing local towns asking on her whereabouts, most of his small Minnesota town has accepted the hard reality of the situation. Turning to his sanctuary and thoughts of preservation, he keeps an eye on video cameras set up within to ward off game hunters that come onto his property. That’s how he spots a young girl being pursued by a figure in camouflage hunting her down with a Comanche weapon known for its deadly precision.
Intervening with the attack puts him in the middle of a murder investigation already in progress headed by Sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis, Annabelle). Bodies of girls have been found and in an election year, Gustafson is intent on catching the killer and restoring a reputation that has turned sour thanks to her troublemaking brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) who is always running afoul of the law and getting off with a slap on the wrist. That doesn’t sit well with Blackhawk (Zahn McClarnon, Doctor Sleep) who represents the police for the Native American tribe of the area and has had to hand over Brooks one too many times. Competing storylines are always tricky until they intersect because you know they’re going to overlap at somepoint…it’s just a matter of when.
How Rayburn and Alice eventually cross paths is where the film skips from developing nicely as a run of the mill standard suspense thriller to something much less pleasing and it’s a misstep screenwriter Micah Ranum never recovers from. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling it for you but it’s such a achingly dumb error that you have to wonder if everyone involved thought what they were doing was an inspired bit of rug-pulling. Not stopping there, Ranum upends some floorboards underneath the rug he pulls out from under audiences a little later on with another twist that makes no real sense which leads to a dénouement that mystery fans will have solved long before. Try an experiment for me. Watch the first twenty minutes of the movie. Stop. Think about everyone you’ve met. Write down who you think “did it” and then continue on. I’ll bet you get it right when the unmasking occurs shortly before the credits run.
Not for nothing but Coster-Waldau and even Wallis try to do what they can with these roles, with only Coster-Waldau having much luck convincing us he’s this broken shell of a man. Wallis never sold me on her tough sheriff persona (or her American accent) and that robbed the character of some authority that was desperately needed. Though he’s grown popular from the surprise hit After, Fiennes Tiffin is just a bundle of nerves and cuticle biting that grew tiresome. The one to pay attention to is McClarnon as a wise deputy (and, coincidentally, Rayburn’s ex-wife’s new husband) who figures out something strange is going on and actually does something about it. I’d be interested in seeing McClarnon get a starring vehicle in a similar vein as The Silencing and credit should be given to director Robin Pront for, if nothing else, this bit of solid casting.
That’s not to say The Silencing signifies nothing. I applaud the effort to instill some Native American lore and information on primitive weaponry as well, it’s not often these details are included. There are some well shot sequences and while any Minnesotan like me knows the scenery on display is in no way found in our state, the Canadian locales captured by cinematographer Manuel Dacosse are impressive. Those in the mood for an easy thriller that doesn’t demand a lot of your attention and are OK with some sag in the middle (it’s about 12 minutes too long in my book) will likely find what they need out of The Silencing. Me? I needed a little more noise for it to strike the right chord.