This is our first review from Sammy, who is trialing for the team here at Sci-Fi & Scary. If everything goes well, she will shortly be heading up our movie section. (So, no pressure, Sammy!) Please welcome her to the team. You can find out more about her below.
When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, 16-year old Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka), who lost her hearing at 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven.
The Silence Review
“I know how to live in silence. We all do.”
Leonetti’s outbreak horror plunges us into a world of darkness, only to bring us into murky light. The first even that happens before our eyes is the mutilation of explorers froma first-person perspective. The pace is jagged and hyper-tense, as it is framed from a body-cam angle. I feel like this sets us up for the main purpose of the film, for us to see everything through our own experience. Before we can dissect this, we’re subjected to a startling montage of creatures’ cycles – procreation, death and decay. Underscored with a moody, urgent string score, ware then thrust into silence. It is a jarring experience, much like the deaths we’ve just seen. We’re in the hands of a director and crew that will not only show you death in its quickness and absoluteness, but make you feel it.
Kiernan Shipka (Chilling Tales of Sabrina), plays Ally, a deaf teenager who lost her hearing in a car accident which killed her grandparents. She plays an assured and delicate portrayal of a child who has had to adjust to life without an essential sense. I do wonder how different the portrayal would have been with an actual deaf actor, however I like the way deafness and sound are approached in this film. Yes, it’s an important part of the plot that deafness is present, but I don’t think it makes up her entire identity. Also, I feel the juxtaposition between silence and sound is complex. Although not quite as interesting as the silence used in A Quiet Place, the relationship between sound and silence in this film is a solid one. Sound is used both used to make people safe and unsafe, to protect and put in jeopardy. Ally’s deafness makes her vulnerable to an extent, no matter how well she has adapted, as we see her bullied by another student in our introduction to her, but when it all goes down, she becomes one of the strongest of the family. It is in this nuance, that we find the heart of this film, and the potential to interpret.
Sign language becomes integral to survival, and Shipka, her mother (Miranda Otto, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), her father (Stanley Lucci) create a strong and adaptable family through realistic and gentle performances. But the work that has been put into making a solid, stable family unit and a protagonist living with deafness is spun off by the appearance of the Reverend and The Hushed, a strange cult with cut out tongues that we are introduced to. Although this subplot is interesting and could have opened up another branch of isolation and the experiences of ableism and disability discrimination, timing is everything. With only twenty minutes left, there just isn’t enough to introduce us and tie everything up with the rest of the plot, so it seems a little out of nowhere at best and rushed at worst. A real shame.
The film makes nods to Hitchock’s Birds, Alien but also other Netflix Films like Bird Box but lacks the timing. It has moments of promise and a real push for the interpretation of living with a disability and the consequences and experiences of ableism, but unfortunately, it just falls short. Whether this is because of the release timing (Birdbox and A Quiet Place are very similar), or not enough time invested in the plot and how the subplot relate to each other, it’s a film with promise.
Sammy Willbourne is a horror film and theatre maker from Nottingham, UK. She is the owner of her own horror company SLASH Arts Company which is in its first year, specialising in horror film, theatre and art projects.