How would humanity survive if faced with a Human Extinction Level Event because of the existence of strange monsters capable of hunting you based on the sounds you create? How would we evolve in the face of such horror?
You’re probably thinking, “Didn’t John Krazinski already pose that question with ‘A Quiet Place’ in 2018?”
You would be right — but also wrong. The film in question is “The Silence“ a 2019 Netflix film based on a book of the same name written by Tim Lebbon which follows a similar plot to the aforementioned Krazinski-helmed project
But rather than dumping the audience into the middle of the post-apocalyptic onslaught, “The Silence” shows you the beginning without waiting until the sequel to do so. And while it seems like a carbon copy of the earlier movie, the Lebbon’s source material was published in 2015.
Stanley Tucci plays a contractor who’s family is the central focus of the story; they are surprisingly best suited to this new reality because Tucci’s daughter (Kiernan Shipka, “Mad Men”) is hearing impaired; the family is capable of fluently capable of speaking in sign language, allowing them to remain silent when the creatures attack.
While that aspect is another similarity to “A Quiet Place,” which also had a deaf protagonist, the similarities more or less stop there. There are classic post-apocalypse survival tropes, like raiding abandoned stores for non-perishable supplies, and learning to adapt and navigate this new normal, but the differences far outweigh the similarities.
One major subplot from Lebbon’s book — namely a human threat in the form of a band of religious zealots — becomes a prominent element in the movie’s second half. These zealots have removed their tongues to prevent themselves from alerting the monsters. Their goal is to kidnap Shipka’s character as she could be used to help replenish the human population.
Part of the film’s strength is the focus on how this family adapts to and overcomes adversity. When one of their own became deaf due to a car accident, they worked together to keep her integrated in the family, a cohesion that helps them survive. Their tight-knit dynamic depicts a family immediately understanding the need to work together regardless of the circumstances.
The use of weaponized sound against fellow humans by the zealots near the film’s climax is brilliantly conceived — which can only be because of Lebbon’s brilliant original story, and some faithfulness on the part of the screenwriters to the source material.
However, the film lacks any real credible character building; even character names aren’t made memorable enough to the audience. Even though the characters are played by competent actors, Leonetti's direction is not as strong.
This is a stronger entry in Leonetti’s filmography than his directorial debut (1997’s “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” was just awful), but it’s clear the cinematographer-turned-director has a better eye for camera movement and visuals than character development and story.
The film is enjoyable even if it plays the horror and drama safe for the sake of a PG-13 rating; given the fact the movie went straight to Netflix, the producers could have shot for the R-rating. More than likely the decision came down to the fact that Shipka – who stars in Netflix’s “Chilling Tales of Sabrina” (TV-14) – is popular among teens and young adults right now.
The book is the story’s purest form.