Hollywood falls back on its favorite bogeyman in this trite Netflix horror film
Post-apocalyptic movies have plenty in common.
The survivors feast on dwindling food supplies. Basic necessities like clean water, medicine and electricity are suddenly in short supply.
And the force that caused the disaster, be it man-made or technologically driven, isn’t the only thing to fear.
In some of George A. Romero’s “Dead” films, that meant your fellow survivors could kill you as swiftly as those zombies. That theme also keeps “The Walking Dead” afloat. Who are Daryl and co. more afraid of, a shuffling Walker or Negan?
That brings us to “The Silence.” The new Netflix shocker stars Stanley Tucci as a father guiding his clan through a bleak new world. Winged creatures, trapped beneath the earth for centuries, are suddenly free to roam the skies.
They tear through humanity, killing millions while slowing modern society to a crawl. Their weakness? They can’t see, so they track their prey via sound.
The “other” monsters here are familiar to anyone who grasps Hollywood’s unease with religion.
STORY SPOILERS AHEAD
The first warning sign comes in the form of American flags. Dozens of them.
Tucci and co-star Kiernan Shipka are wandering through a deserted town square searching for antibiotics. The camera captures flag after flag, flapping dramatically across the landscape.
Attention: This is small town USA.
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Next, we see an imposing church, a significant structure given the town’s size.
“Join us and survive,” the church’s sign reads, an obvious attempt to reach those who haven’t been gobbled up already. We then see a man, dressed in black like a priest, standing ominously in the distance.
Gee, could they offer help to our heroes? Not likely, given the context and clues shoved in our faces.
Later, the priestly figure and his followers visit our heroes at their temporary home. Their presence is unsettling, a far cry from the warmth the kindest Christians project.
Things devolve swiftly from there.
Once again, the force that nearly extinguished humanity takes a back seat to a new threat. And Hollywood rarely shies away from casting Christian-like figures as the villain. The “Purge” franchise did just that in the series’ third installment, “Election Year.”
Overall, “The Silence” is a very slipshod spin on “A Quiet Place,” a film with an identical premise. Director John Krasinski’s film delivered thrills, superior sound design and legitimate scares.
“The Silence” offers a strong cast, including Miranda Otto and an utterly wasted John Corbett, and little else. Most of its story beats feel recycle from previous apocalyptic tales. The movie also kills off its one compelling character less than 20 minutes into the tale.
NOTE: “The Silence” also got in trouble for its deaf language portrayal:
In this day and age of diversity and inclusion, this is why authenticity in casting is crucial. Who needs a bad rap like this?! “Netflix’s The Silence is being criticised for Kiernan Shipka’s “incorrect” sign language” @popbuzz https://t.co/NfvbeLjyj9
— Marlee Matlin (@MarleeMatlin) April 12, 2019
Having Shipka’s character be deaf is another poorly employed gimmick. Her family is adept at sign language, which makes communicating in a new, silent world easier than expected.
The screenplay even sets up a fancy maneuver by Tucci and Shipka by removing the sign language sub titles. It’s a cheap trick, and an unnecessary one given the threat level. Viewers can easily brainstorm a better plan than the one deployed here.
Christians, like any group, are fair game for storytellers. It’s the frequency with which they target people of faith, though, that makes “The Silence” both generic and bland.