Mike’s Review: The Silence (2019)

🦇 out of 🦇🦇🦇🦇🦇

Just because you thought A Quiet Place was cool doesn’t mean it needs to be remade six months later.

Directed by John Leonetti

In 2019, when you’re crafting a film that includes someone of color, a particular ethnicity, someone who’s disabled, or even someone from a particular religion – filmmakers better do their research and they better be awful diligent.  God forbid the entire film’s plot hinges on one of those aforementioned qualities, then filmmakers are also required, yes required, to be diligent and thoughtful.  Gone are the days of 1970s grindhouse glory where filmmakers can passively and ignorantly gloss over their social responsibilities. In case you’re wondering, 2019’s Netflix film, the Silence, didn’t get this memo, but it’s not the only thing they didn’t get. 

Scary DVDs! Woo!
Eeeeek! Vesps!

The Silence is actually a pretty smart premise – even though it’s largely a ripoff of 2010’s Piranha. In fact, if the piranhas weren’t so darn reliant on water, the Silence would be the exact same premise.  The Silence involves a somewhat unidentified group of spelunkers who kick open a nasty bat nest of creatures that have been dwelling and plotting underground for millions of years.  The only defect for these bad beasties is that they can’t see.  Their hearing is exceptional, as are their ferocious fangs, but they just can’t see (see: A Quiet Place).  Having been cooped up for lo those many years, the nasty bats – referred to in the film as vesps – are hungry, pissed, and ready to roll through contemporary society with a vengeance.

Early on in the film we’re introduced to a young deaf girl, Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka, Blackcoat’s Daughter and the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), who turns in one of the most uninspired and clumsy performances in a long while.  As a deaf girl she speaks perfectly and without any impediment. She barely signs at all and we’re left to assume that she’s some sort of lip-reading savant whose disability has had no discernable impact on her day-to-day life.  Ally is the focus of the film and ostensibly the twisty nemesis to the blind-as-a-bat bats, but her performance is poor and frankly offensive.  Among the gaffs: she hears her dog when she’s deaf; virtually everyone around her signs, but she doesn’t; her brother and she understand each others sign language despite barely looking at each other; and according to several American Sign Language experts, her sign language is incorrect.  There’s deaf people who can act (again see: A Quiet Place), and there’s actors who can actually use sign language, and there’s a whole raft of devices, tricks, and smoke and mirrors available to directors.  The Silence just opted to use none of them.

As the plague takes hold Ally’s dad, Hugh Andrews (Stanley Tucci) and his pal “Uncle” Glenn (John Corbett) decide that the only way out is out.  As in get out of the cities and head for the hills.  Why do they opt for bucolic hinterlands? Who knows?  The laziness of the Silence’s character development also unfortunately lapses over in to the writing.  But, the Andrews family and sidekick “Uncle” Glenn make it out of one of the sorriest little traffic jams ever put to film, and almost make it to the pastoral parts unknown.  “Uncle” Glenn does eventually get crushed by his vehicle and chomped to death by the nasty vesps, but not before firing off a couple macho rounds in a way that only the hunky John Corbett is capable of doing. 

A father/daughter outing in the Silence.

Eventually team Andrews makes their way to one of the nicest rural compounds I’ve ever seen and one that could easily make the pages of Sunset Magazine.  After the cantankerous cabin owner is undone by her own vocal outburst, the Andrews family settles in to cabin life, but not before Ally’s mom (Miranda Otto) gets clawed up by one the nasty bats. Faced with some evil bat fever that requires antibiotics, Ally and Hugh set off to find mom a much-needed cure.  Father and daughter encounter a religious zealot who’s opted to cut out his tongue rather than utter any sounds and fall prey to the nasty bats.  Call me crazy, but cutting out your tongue a couple days in to an unknown bat plague seems a little rash.  Even more rash?  The religious zealot has a team of followers who’ve followed his unwise medical prescription. Seems like a vow of silence would be more in keeping with religious zealotry, but what do I know?

Team Andrews eventually does battle with team mute and flawlessly make their way to the Refuge (see: Bird Box).  Upon their arrival Ally, who’s deaf remember, gives a junior high-esque monologue about whether the vesps will adapt to the cold, or humans will adapt to a soundless lifestyle, like she did.  Trust us, it’s as silly as it sounds. The only thing that’s saving the Silence from getting zero, yes zero, stars are the vesps.  These nasty bat creatures are pretty damn cool. For as many things as the Silence got wrong, it did get one thing right.  Sounds about right doesn’t it?

The Silence is PG-13 and available for streaming at Netflix.

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