Director John R. Leonetti
Screenplay Cary and Shane Van Dyke based on the book by Tim Lebbon
Starring Kiernan Shipka, Stanley Tucci, Miranda Otto, John Corbett, Billy McClellan
Just about the time when The Silence meets it’s ultimate antagonist, The Reverend (McClellan). My daughter came downstairs from studying. It’s her spring break, so of course she’s trying to get ahead for next year. She watches with me as the mute leader of a new revolution makes demands of Hugh Andrews (Tucci) for his young, “fertile” daughter Ally (Shipka). She heads to one of the recliners, sits down and asks me to turn on something else.
I tell her I had already put over an hour into this mess and I was going to stick it out. This was just average so far. They might do something original or even intriguing soon. As if they heard the conversation, the movie is over within 15 minutes.
The Silence may have started in a good place. There is no doubt they thought they had something in 2017 when they started making the film. Since the source material is a book from 2015, it plays like more of a dystopian young adult film from a writer Lebbon who writes a lot of horror and sci-fi books, including Alien/Predator, Star Wars and the film 30 Days of Night.
I couldn’t resist, though. I had to watch. Co-headliner Shipka is an essential part of the series Mad Men. Her character Sally Draper’s growth mirrors that of her father, Don Draper (John Hamm). It is one of the few instances where a child actor outpaces a great adult performance. Much of this had to do with the uncompromising writing. There are real stakes. That caliber of writing is not supplied here.
The premise is straight out of horror lore. An ancient crevice is opened by explorers, unleashing a worldwide plague of vicious bats called Vesps that go right after anything making a sound. Even though they look and sound like bats, the script doesn’t make the obvious choice to call them such. This would push the idea of the blind Vesps just using echolocation like their cousins. It wouldn’t matter if everyone was quiet then.
Also not explained is how this plague rips through the planet so quickly. There are plenty of eggs shown in the latter half of the film, but we never see any young Vesps that would indicate an ability to cover a massive amount of ground in a short period of time.
The circumstance places the Andrews family, and their friend Uncle Glenn (Corbett) on the road to get away from cities, which are the biggest providers of sound. The plan is thought up by the young newly (within 3 years) deaf daughter, Ally and Uncle Glenn. How they think leaving a place where there is plenty of sound to drown them out to go somewhere where they’d stand out is a good plan, I am not sure. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But hey, she’s deaf, so she’s got to know something, right?
The plot never really figures out what to do with Ally’s condition. They surmise that the condition is a benefit to the family because everyone knows how to sign. Then they bring the dog with them in the van so we can see the hair raise on his back when he starts to bark at their arrival. Don’t have to be deaf to see the hair. And it doesn’t take a genius to know dog’s don’t bark in ASL.
The movie is equal parts idiotic and half-assed. No one really believes that Hugh Andrews and his family could ever make it through the first wave of this infestation. It’s a waste of good acting talent in roles that are incomplete and just not well thought through. If there is a better story there, I don’t want to see it through these characters.
On the other hand, the Vesps are actually decently presented. They look terrifying and they give the appearance to other creatures one might encounter in a cave. They’re blind and rely on their ears. They are cheated by the rest of the lame plot, prevented from becoming the menace their creators deserve to have them become.
Shipka is completely wooden here and that is disappointing. She doesn’t want to keep this on her resume. One hopes she benefits from The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and parleys that success into something more deserving of her talent.
(*1/2 out of *****)