DON'T SPEAK (2020)

Don't Speak.jpg

Studio:      Uncork¡¯d Entertainment
Director:    Scott Jeffrey
Writer:      Scott Jeffrey
Producer:  Rebecca J. Matthews, Scott Jeffrey
Stars:     Stephanie Lodge, Jake Watkins, Ryan Davies, Georgina Jane, Nicola Wright, Will Stanton

Review Score:



A mutant creature attracted to sound hunts a family trapped on an isolated farm.



Me, 83 minutes ago: ¡°Oh, what the hell. It¡¯s been a while since I indulged in a harmless little mockbuster. Maybe I¡¯ll give this ¡®A Quiet Place¡¯ ripoff a go just as a goofy lark.¡±

Me, now: ¡°What the hell was I thinking? Only so many hours in a day and I¡¯d willingly spend one and a half of them on disposable DTV horror I won¡¯t even remember by this time tomorrow?¡±

Movies like ¡°Don¡¯t Speak¡± used to be my bread and butter. Plenty of genre websites exist out there. Yet a lot of ¡°critics¡± covering the bottom of the VOD barrel are only looking to get quoted on a box cover. They¡¯ll tell you any average hunk of junk is ¡°recommended!¡± if it¡¯ll win them a filmmaker¡¯s follow on Twitter. Film21 TV meanwhile, became a place to cut through shills and get the layperson¡¯s lowdown on whatever homemade horror destined for irrelevance dropped in a given week.

But the toll on my disposition proved to be more than I wanted to deal with. As entertaining as it might be to dunk on fly-by-night flicks, sarcasm eventually transformed into cynicism, which in turn morphed into contempt for micro-monster movies that were wasting my time far more often than not. If traffic had to take a hit because I was no longer on the pulse of this niche, so be it. I¡¯d rather cover the same wider releases as everyone else and not flog myself with bad B-movies that cause me to question what it is I¡¯m doing with my life.

No-budget clones such as ¡°Don¡¯t Speak¡± can still seem appealing in certain circumstances. They offer low-impact content you only need a portion of brainpower to pay attention to, and require even less thought to write about. When I want to bang out a review that doesn¡¯t require research, deep analysis, or simmering for a day or two, I can press play on a pedestrian thriller and be done with the day¡¯s work before fixing lunch.

That¡¯s the good thing about ¡°Don¡¯t Speak,¡± which previously had the title ¡°Silent Place¡± before someone seemingly realized they were tempting copyright litigation enough as it is. The bad thing is, well, almost everything else.

Looking at the big picture of fright films made for four figures or less, ¡°Don¡¯t Speak¡± isn¡¯t that bad. Relatively speaking, ¡°that bad¡± can be seen as faint praise considering how much straight-up trash clogs home video horror.

For one thing, the movie¡¯s actors aren¡¯t rank amateurs. They¡¯re not names, nor would you label them as particularly ¡°good¡± either. But they have actual headshots for IMDb thumbnails and some prior experience, albeit in other direct-to-video titles no one has heard of or shorts no one has seen. At least they aren¡¯t the director¡¯s aunts, brothers, and roommates annoyingly playing ¡°I¡¯m in a movie!¡± make-believe they expect people to plunk down money for.

The film exhibits several signs of technical competence too. Writer/director Scott Jeffrey seems to understand Filmmaking 101 fundamentals of three-point lighting, camera placement, editing, etc. The creature design counts as cool for this tier of lo-fi thriller. ¡°Don¡¯t Speak¡± also includes a drone shot and several nighttime exteriors. In other words, the cast and crew put in some effort to do a little more than the minimum here.

But giving credit for doing what any production is expected to do anyway is like awarding a participation trophy for simply showing up. When grading ¡°Don¡¯t Speak¡± beyond checking basic boxes, it has a much harder time meeting acceptable standards for storytelling and cinematic execution.

By-the-book describes how ¡°Don¡¯t Speak¡± goes about its business. Plot points come connected by stale scenes such as a dying man choking out exposition while another guy predictably pleads, ¡°stay with me!¡± In another sequence, a severely injured girl uses a bandage to daintily dab at a gaping gash. Either she doesn¡¯t know how to use gauze wrap properly or else no one could find a more sensible prop. It¡¯s a moment as head-scratching as two parents discovering a door left ajar, dropped items signaling a struggle, and a trail of blood leading them to hilariously conclude, ¡°something¡¯s not right¡± like they merely found a picture frame tipped over.

The teenage son of the featured family stresses over telling his folks about a girl he got pregnant. That¡¯s literally the single solitary bit of backstory constituting any kind of character development, unless you count his sister arguing with her boyfriend, whose true purpose is to be a meal for the monster.

What I¡¯m getting at is, even though you can practically count the peanuts it was made for, ¡°Don¡¯t Speak¡± isn¡¯t sloppily put together, except maybe as a story. But the script rarely tries harder than it has to, resulting in routine indie horror that¡¯s mostly just 80 minutes of people running around or hiding while a man in a creature suit stalks them.

Maybe I¡¯m being moderately lenient because now I only watch chintzy fright films once every six months instead of five times a week. I¡¯ve built my tolerance back up to have a little patience with forgettable films like this again. Still, I can¡¯t come up with an inarguable reason why, in a world of limited time and superior entertainment options, someone would say, ¡°you know, I really ought to watch ¡®Don¡¯t Speak¡¯.¡±

Oh sh*t. That¡¯s exactly what I did, didn¡¯t I? Live and learn. Again. In the meantime, I have a No Doubt song I desperately need to flush out of my head.

Review Score: 35