Who would have ever thought that a pseudo-dystopian suspense/drama about a herd of other-worldly creatures who hunt and destroy humanity based on a keen ability to exploit one of the five senses would be seen as derivative? Yet here we are with The Silence, based on Tim Lebbon’s 2015 novel. It shares almost the exact storyline as last April’s A Quiet Place, and, since it’s a Netflix film, it’s getting more than a passing comparison to the streaming service’s Bird Box from this past December.
But that’s where the comparisons come to an abrupt end. A Quiet Place was easily among the top 10 films of 2018, and Bird Box was effective in its own right—a decent stab at a solid premise. The Silence, however, falls dismally flat all on its own and is even worse when put up against either of those other films. Weighed down by a slogging script that’s loaded with way-too-convenient plot points and no sense at all of how to build suspense, it’s a failure on almost every level. Even the presence of Stanley Tucci and Kiernan Shipka isn’t enough to raise The Silence out of its own muck.
Tucci stars as Hugh Andrews, a contractor living in suburban Philadelphia with his wife Kelly (Miranda Otto), daughter Ally (Shipka), and son Jude (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf). After a prologue showing how a pair of cave explorers accidentally broke through an underground wall and released thousands of bloodthirsty “vesps” (miniature blind pterodactyls) into the light of day, Tucci and his family watch in horror as news accounts tell of how the creatures attack and kill everything they come in contact with. Eventually (though we’re never told how), it’s discovered that the creatures use sound to pinpoint their prey, meaning if you live like the Abbotts in A Quiet Place, you’re safe.
The Andrews high-tail it away from the city and into the country (because, you know, quieter), and—well, that’s pretty much it. After a way-too-long scene involving Hugh’s friend Glenn (a wasted John Corbett), who joins the family on the road trip, the gang eventually ends up moving into someone else’s farmhouse. From there, we get a brief scene of Hugh and Ally schlepping into town to pilfer a long-deserted pharmacy (sound familiar, A Quiet Place fans?) and then a bizarro subplot involving a creepy minister (Billy MacLellan) who wants the Andrews clan to join “his flock”. (Weirdly, he’s scarier than all of the creatures put together and would have elevated the movie somewhat if he didn’t come from so far out in left field.)
The script by brothers Shane and Carey Van Dyke (The Chernobyl Diaries) defies all logic in its ability to take Lebbon’s white-knuckle book and turn it into something that seems to be begging to be put out of its misery. With no sense of immediacy, little in the way of drama, and frequent, laughable moments, The Silence is a horror movie only in the sense that it’s truly horrific.