The Silencing [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (8th November 2020).
The Film

The opening scene is shot from way on high of a rapidly flowing river and as the camera follows the river along, we see something clad in bright red. After another couple of shots, we can see that it is the body of a woman, floating face up, eyes open to the skies. Yes, this is yet another serial killer film and here is the latest victim. Screenwriter Micah Ranum should be given credit as he actually tries to give us a storyline with characters that come across as fully realized, but somehow the thin plot crumbles under the weight of the overall production. Not that there aren’t some things here to make this film worthy of at least, a rental; the cast is particularly good, the Canadian locale filling in for Minnesota works, the direction and cinematography is crisp and motivated. But there are still nit-picky things that I noticed, and they stop me from completely rolling over and giving this top marks. However, let’s take an in-depth look at the film and examine it a bit more closely.

Since I am a true crime freak, I must mention that there are elements here that resembled the MO of serial killer Robert Hansen. Hansen, who was portrayed by John Cusack in "The Frozen Ground" (2013) and was brought to justice by Nicholas Cage; he was an Alaskan serial killer that enjoyed kidnapping female sex workers and tracking them through the countryside. In this film, that MO is once again employed but with some interesting variations: the killer is disguised in a large body costume that more resembles a Muppet outfit (a Ghillie suit) than mere camouflage, and his weapon of choice is actually an atlatl; a handheld device that is used to hurl spears at game. It appears that the killer is actually into the chase and murder and isn’t simply using a high-powered rifle to dispatch his victim. However, the screenwriter does not explain why the killer prefers this method and so this item literally falls to the wayside. Nor is it explained why the victims have unusual markings indicating recent surgery to their vocal cords, which is where the film’s title probably comes from; strike two, Ranum.

We are introduced to the character of Rayburn Swanson (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) as he confronts two local louts that look like they escaped from a casting call for a remake of "Deliverance" (1972). He tells the two ignoramuses that the buck that they have set their sights on is actually living in a sanctuary and that they will need to surrender their firearms. This is the “ Gwen Swanson Wildlife Sanctuary” and it is named after his missing daughter who mysteriously disappeared five years prior. In short order we are presented with a picture of a man that is plagued by guilt; his daughter disappeared while Swanson was busy chasing a bottle of hootch, but that does nothing to deter him from inhaling plenty of liquor now. Sheriff Alice Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis) is a troubled law enforcement agent living in a rundown town that is plagued by plenty of illegal drug action, but in addition to this burden she also has to look out for her ne'er-do-well brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) who looks like something that the cat has drug in. The two of them share a background that hints at something darker (but again is not really developed) and Gustafson is quick with a pistol. Brooks is picked up at the local native reservation; apparently no stranger to trouble, Carl Blackhawk (Zahn McClarnon) is well acquainted with the Sheriff’s brother. Brooks suffered a beatdown at the hands of local bad boys Sam Moonblood (Gregory Odjig) and his partner Roger Olsen (Mark Charles Cowling) while at the Factory. Later, when the two are at Brooks motel room discussing his recent trouble, Brooks bursts out a revealing question: “Would she protect him if he did something terrible?” Before we get to the answer, a pounding knock on the door from Rayburn interrupts the discussion.

Rayburn is a big game hunter that no longer hunts. He also wasn’t the most straight up hunter either. But that is all in the past now, ever since Gwen vanished. So now Rayburn basically sits at home drinking and keeping an eye on the many monitors that he has set up in his living room. One day he spies a hulking man-thing carrying some spears and it appears that he is pursuing a young woman in the forest; Rayburn grabs a shotgun and springs into action. Rayburn is a damaged crusader. He continues to tape up neon day-glow signs regarding his missing daughter. He refuses to accept that she is dead and tells his ex-wife Debbie (Melanie Scrofano) that he will not sign the papers for the insurance company. Debbie is now the partner of Blackhawk and she is expecting a child. Talk about a close-knit community! Everyone knows everyone here and they all know your business as well. The Sheriff is called to the riverbank and the most recent victim is displayed. “What’s that on her throat?” she asks the coroner, Dr. Boone (Shaun Smyth) on the scene and he remarks “ I don’t know, but I will make a note of it.” Now that is some first class investigating! Quincy, move over! Right there is one of the major problems that I have with the film; the film is entitled "The Silencing", hence one would be lead to believe that the killer has surgically altered the victim’s vocal chords so that they cannot scream, however there is no real development from this basic clue. I felt like the director had to make some serious cuts to the film and that this footage was probably left on the cutting room floor.

Once again Rayburn spies the killer stalking another victim in his wildlife sanctuary; this time it is Molly (Charlotte Lindsay Marron), another redhead, and mute of course. Rayburn finds the man’s truck, sans plate, in the woods and he scratches a mark on it. Rayburn is wounded with a spear, but still manages to rescue the girl and they hide themselves in an underground pit that Rayburn had previously installed. Meanwhile the sheriff is investigating the mysterious arrow, which foolishly is personalized with someone’s initials. Jim Needles (Patrick Garrow) is a local weapons dealer, and he demonstrates the atlatl, telling her that it is a deadly efficient killing implement. Sam Moonblood, it turns out, trucks illegal trade in this unusual weapon. The sheriff finally has a lead and goes in pursuit of Moonblood. Finding Moonblood’s basement workshop, the sheriff is surprised by Carl who has trailed her here. Red herrings are abundant by this time: seedy characters abound and anyone of them could be the killer.

Molly and Rayburn are ensconced in his home when suddenly the killer appears and the two have a fierce struggle. Rayburn suffers another beatdown and Molly is speared up close and personal. At that exact moment, the sheriff makes an unannounced visit to Rayburn’s place and finds him holding the suspect at gunpoint; the sheriff shoots Rayburn because there is a telling moment when the costumed intruder cracks his knuckles (a nasty habit that Brooks has) and she believes that her brother is the killer, allowing him to flee. Then things sort of get pushed into fast forward as the action takes the center stage: in short order, the sheriff steps into an animal trap, Rayburn is secreted to an RV for medical help applied by Dr, Boone, Molly is taken to the hospital to be treated for her injury. Rayburn reveals that Alice set him up to protect Brooks. Confused? Yes, me too.

Rayburn has a moment of recrimination and ends up pouring all the booze down the drain and has decided to dry out. We have a flashback that reveals that Rayburn’s daughter went missing because he insisted on stopping at a liquor store, and hence his overwhelming sense of guilt. The sheriff stops in to check on Molly and finally makes the connection between prior victims and the throat surgery. Rayburn finds the key marked pickup truck and makes his way into Dr. Boone’s house; he is surprised by the doctor who sticks a needle deep into Rayburn knocking him out. The sheriff does some digging and finds out that the doctor’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver and that she was left in the forest to die. See how it all ties together? Rayburn comes to in the forest where he is being hunted by the doctor; Boone explains that he killed Gwen because Rayburn was a drunk and he didn’t care about his daughter. Boone ironically explains that “he only killed the ones that wouldn’t be missed.” The sheriff finds the two men just before Rayburn is prepared to toss Boone into the pit that has now been equipped with sharpened spikes. She has the opportunity to arrest the both of them, but she does nothing. Rough justice. The final scene is at the graveyard where Rayburn’s daughter finally has a tombstone and service. Molly, now all healed up, places a flower on the grave. Roll the credits!

Video

Presented in the film's original ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen HD 1080p 24/fps and mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression. Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse lends the film a crisp look with a pleasant palette of rich greens, deep browns and flesh tones look great in close ups. The film overall has an excellent appearance.

Audio

A single English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is included, Brooke and Will Blair supply the dramatic score that pleasantly lends itself to the suspense on the screen. The surround audio does a decent job of immersing the viewer. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired and Spanish.

Extras

"Making the Silencing" (14:160) featurettes include interviews with the cast, the director and producer on making the film.

"Creating a Weapon: The Silencing Spear" (4:26) featurette is a brief history of the weapon is featured and an interview with the prop person that was in charge of the weapons.

Bonus trailers are included for:

- "Guns Akimbo" (2:17)
- "Retaliation" (2:12)
- "Vivarium" (2:21)

Included is a code for a digital copy version of the film.

Packaging

Packaged in a standard blu-ray keep case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

Overall, there was good production values and strong leads make up for the holes in the plot. The serial killer plot is way too familiar and even though director Pront is particularly good at creating suspense, this still felt overly contrived.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: C+ Overall: B-

 


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