Director: Robin Pront Starring:Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Caleb Ellsworh-Clark Josh Crudda, Annabelle Wallis, Zahn McClarnon . Canada. 1h 33m
Backwoods horrors seem to have traveled from the deserts of the southern American into the cold forests of the north, incorporating indigenous folklore along the way. The Silencing tries to keep itself in the here and now, offering a grimy armchair detective mystery with icy drama, some daring thrills and a fathers promise to find his missing daughter at all costs.
We always fall into these stories after the main event, people have started to find a way to cope, in this case, father Rayburn Swanson (Coster-Waldau) has dropped to the bottom of the bottle and wallowing in his own filth while trying to keep his job and tortures himself by searching for his daughter when sober enough. His (ex) wife has accepted that their daughter isn’t coming home, the conflict between the couple seemed to have caused enough of a rift that she’s moved on and is now in a relationship with with an ingenious cop, Blackhawk (McClamon), her futile attempts to put the matter to rest and have an official burial for their girl, is met with anger and only spurs Rayburn on to find out what happened. With the town looking down on him daily, putting up missing posters, drinking himself into an early grave and setting up trail cameras hoping to catch a glimpse of her, even 5 years later.
We met in the morgue.. I hope you don’t plan on taking me there.–Rayburn Swanson
There are definitely some worthwhile ideas in The Silencing, it’s a very straightforward thriller, once the initial event of the missing girl is highlighted and characters introduced it only gets grittier as the thriving criminal underworld is opened up by a new local police officer Gustafson (Wallis). A woman so ambitious she starts making a few mistakes along the way when her bruised brother gets thrown into the mix. For the most part, nothing bad can be said about how well made the movie is, there’s gorgeous picturesque shots of the Candaian wilderness, often framed like a hipster postcard. The lens is so well defined at times and the pursuit for the perfect shot and blistering action is balanced well. But it feels like Pront missed a trick by slowing down the film and speeding through the ending, not allowing for really processing of the twists and revelations, and slightly letting down the fascinating experience for some confusion.
There are moments of excitement and even a touch of black comedy when Rayburn stops a couple of boys illegally hunting on protected ground he ends up needing to ask them for a lift.. I mean it could be funny? What starts as personal insight into a man who’s been desperately hanging onto hope, to suddenly uncovering all sorts of underground characters and illegal activities from banned homemade weapons to whatever is happening to young girls in the town, the events that breakthrough in a matter of a few days is a bit of a stretch. The overall brooding nature hangs over the town, much like Hold the Dark (2018) but without the supernatural edge. There’s just something being held back and I can’t put my finger on it, maybe the lack of character development, or possibly that a cop shoots an innocent man and there’s no investigation.
While the silencing is robust and periodically holds the attention, there are a few elements which let the film down, at times it’s hard to believe in the process, the script falls away at times and characters seem to pop out of nowhere just to throw the audience off the scent to just vanish moments later. It is gorgeous to watch and is constantly turning and shifting the plot, keeping the audience on their toes. The purpose and meaning is paramount but at times it’s just thinly written, but worth getting past any luls for the payoff that bound to rile any parent.
Related: Hold the Dark (2018), One Single Shot (2013), Backwoods (2006), Calvaire (2004), A Lonely Place to Die (2011), Prisoners (2013) Lists: Mystery in the Woods