In The Silence, Netflix’s new horror movie, violent, sound-attracted creatures called Vesps escape from a cave and begin terrorizing big cities. Running for cover, Hugh Andrews (Stanley Tucci) leads his family to the woods, where there is less noise to draw the monsters. Their quest is aided by the fact that the whole clan knows American Sign Language, following a car accident in which daughter Ally (Kiernan Shipka) lost her hearing.
If you’re thinking “Isn’t that just a rip-off of A Quiet Place?” let me put your mind at ease: The Silence also rips-off The Mist, and neither narrative reaping is done all that competently. Whereas A Quiet Place wisely does away with all the burdensome and unnecessary details of the sound-apocalypse, which is all that The Silence invests in. Like The Mist, it strings together survivalist vignettes, with a brief religious subplot to remind us that humans are the real monsters, but no leg of the journey is particularly compelling, and many are over so quickly that whatever purpose they’re meant to serve is just blurred scenery rushing by.
The bad news is, The Silence is a terrible movie. The good news is, it’s so bad it’s good. Few horror movies manage to strike the balance between earnestness and ineptitude required to make an enjoyable bad-movie experience; The Silence has just enough perplexing choices and bumbled executions to be satisfying. In a blink-and-you’ll-miss scene, an old woman threatens the group with a gun for trespassing. She is somehow unaware that her property is absolutely crawling with monsters, because her voice immediately summons a swarm of monsters that lift her into the air and dump her in a well. It’s the sort of pointlessly over-the-top spectacle I expect from a snark ’90s horror flick, but it’s completely out-of-place in the earnest family drama The Silence wants to be.
Generally speaking, horror movie creatures are either extremely small but overwhelming (Slither, The Birds), or large enough that just one is terrifying (Jaws, Godzilla). If a movie goes for something in-between, it’s usually a horror-comedy (Gremlins). The Vesps fall into this middle category of threatlessness; really, a barbershop quartet armed with branches could defend themselves from these things. The creatures look like bats evolved underground — a sort-of fleshy Zubat that might appear in Detective Pikachu.
Predictable creature design aside, every beat of The Silence is telegraphed so badly, even the characters seems exasperated by it; After a half-hearted attempt to free family friend Glenn (John Corbett) from a crashed car, Hugh leaves him for dead. Lying in the wreckage, Glenn can hear the Andrews’ car being pelted by Vesps. With an expression bordering on eyeroll, he fires off a few shots to lure the monsters to him, sacrificing himself for the family.
The Silence is based on a book by Tim Lebbon, which predates A Quiet Place. While that’s good to know, it doesn’t change the fact that A Quiet Place executed the concept first and better. But if you’re interested in a low-impact horror movie to watch with friends, The Silence might suit your silliest needs.