Studio: Saban Films
Director: Robin Pront
Writer: Micah Ranum
Producer: Cybill Lui Eppich
Stars: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Annabelle Wallis, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Melanie Scrofano, Shaun Smyth, Zahn McClarnon
An alcoholic ex-hunter crosses paths with a controversial sheriff while searching for a serial killer who could be connected to his daughter¡¯s disappearance.
From the way he longingly leers at amber colored bottles, thirstily tilts over-poured glasses toward anxious lips, or glows in the neon light of sleazy bar signs, you know Rayburn Swanson comes cut from that clich¨¦d cloth of characterization: the emotionally haunted alcoholic. In a mild switcheroo, his triggering trauma didn¡¯t make him this way. Rayburn was already pickling himself with whiskey on a regular basis when his teenage daughter Gwen disappeared. He still gets to blame himself because Gwen was kidnapped out of Rayburn¡¯s car while he stopped at a liquor store for a refill.
Five years later, Rayburn keeps following formula. The ex-wife from his predictably broken marriage moved on with another man. Rayburn now lives the life of an unshaven recluse in a remote woodland cabin. He also clings to desperate hope by continuing to post missing person flyers in the unlikely event someone in the audience needs another visual clue to recognize this pat portrait of a broken man.
Local sheriff Alice Gustafson doesn¡¯t even earn a trope of her own to define her. Other than stone cold apathy, she¡¯s characterized by the relationship with her troubled brother Brooks, a chronic screw-up in constant trouble with the law. Brooks gets the backstory. Alice gets the burden of being moved like a pawn according to where Brooks is and what he is doing.
Rayburn and Alice cross paths without actually teaming up when they both end up trailing a masked serial killer who hunts women in the woods. Rayburn thinks the mystery murderer could be connected to his daughter¡¯s cold case. Alice worries her brother might be under the mask. When Rayburn plays hero to rescue the madman¡¯s latest young victim, and Alice intercedes to potentially protect Brooks, the two of them spark a fire that threatens to scorch their Canadian countryside community if they can¡¯t stop the killer quickly.
For someone who enjoys excessive establishing shots of vehicles starting, driving, or parking, ¡°The Silencing¡± might be a dream come true. Meanwhile, the eyelid-heavying movie might make narcoleptics out of the rest of us who¡¯d rather see scenes that don¡¯t feature more second unit B-roll than they do action. ¡°The Silencing¡± isn¡¯t a cat-and-mouse thriller. It¡¯s a connect-the-dots goose chase from Point A to Point Z, with every stop in between being a barren detour worth bupkus.
Alice¡¯s first clue to the killer¡¯s identity comes courtesy of an arrowhead marked with ¡°MB¡± initials, because what would a movie murderer be without a convenient calling card that may as well be a fingerprint. Alice takes the item to hunting storeowner Jim for identification. Jim refers Alice to shifty criminal Sam Moonblood. Alice can¡¯t find Sam, but she does locate Sam¡¯s associate Roger. Trouble is, Roger refuses to talk. Roger¡¯s daughter Patty on the other hand, privately tells Alice where to find Sam. Sam isn¡¯t where Patty says, though reservation officer Carl finds Alice at Sam¡¯s supposed location and ¡ snore.
Elsewhere, Rayburn tracks a truck he thinks could belong to the killer. Except it turns out to not be the vehicle he thought it was. No worries. Rayburn starts following another truck only to discover its driver is a feeble old man who couldn¡¯t possibly be the sadistic stalker. But wait! The old man sometimes loans his truck to a neighbor and ¡ Jeebus! Did ¡°The Silencing¡± only have ten minutes of story and thus found the most pointless ways possible to taffy-pull it into a 90-minute runtime? On and on the movie goes like this, forcing us to idly watch and wait while everyone bashes their brains into the brick wall at every dead end.
Just shy of the one-hour mark, an unanticipated event involving a gunshot occurs and for a fleeting moment, ¡°The Silencing¡± looks like it might finally shed its skin of convention to do something dramatically different. At this fork, the film has an option to turn one good guy into a bad guy, create a conspiratorial cover-up that would drive Dr. Richard Kimble mad, and color the movie in a hue that isn¡¯t by-the-book beige.
Instead of this intriguing road less traveled, ¡°The Silencing¡± promptly doubles back to continue along the road of routine. Like every other person or plot point of no overall consequence, the divergent development described above only teases a twist. As soon as it¡¯s squashed, we immediately return to the hollow whodunit whose actual outcome is absurdly unrewarding.
The murderer¡¯s weird M.O. involving a ghillie suit and an ancient spear called an ¡°atlatl¡± never sees a satisfying explanation. This person does cough up a bizarre rationale as a motive, though it makes about as much sense as whatever the reason is for why this film was made. True, we¡¯re talking about an unstable mind as well as a fictional character. But if you¡¯re compelled to become a serial killer because a drunk driver killed your daughter, how do you end up hunting teenage girls rather than taking revenge against other drunk drivers?
The missing context behind everything makes ¡°The Silencing¡± feel like it¡¯s based on a book that doesn¡¯t seem to exist. One brief exchange triggered by a certain sight coupled with a newspaper clipping (the Poor Man¡¯s shortcut for quick exposition) hints at how Alice¡¯s brother Brooks was once tortured in a barn by his foster parents. The barn only comes up again during one of the runarounds, so when the structure gets bulldozed in what is supposed to be a somberly poignant epilogue, it¡¯s another ¡°why is this relevant?¡± moment whose symbolism carries no emotional impact.
Maybe in the nonexistent novel, or a meatier version of the screenplay, all of this nothing adds up to something with substantial subplots, thoughtful themes, and deeply developed people. What brittle bones constitute the skeleton that is ¡°The Silencing¡± only add up to another barely mediocre appropriation of the moth-eaten ¡°Most Dangerous Game¡± premise.
Review Score: 45