THE SILENCING (2020) – Serial Killer Thriller Almost Very Good

the silencing

Annabelle Wallis in THE SILENCING (2020)

I’m a fan of Annabelle Wallis, and so when I saw she was starring in THE SILENCING (2020), a serial killer thriller which takes places in the Canadian wilderness, I definitely wanted to check it out.

Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis) is the new sheriff in town, and when she’s not on the job she’s dealing with her troubled younger brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) who’s constantly running afoul of the law, and with good reason, as he was abused for years by his stepparents.

When Gustafson and her officers discover the dead body of a teenage girl in the woods, it appears as if she had been hunted before she had been killed.

At the morgue, one of the locals, Rayburn (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) whose daughter has been missing for five years, asks to see the body, and it turns out that the deceased is not his daughter. Rayburn is now an alcoholic, and because his daughter hated hunting so much, he now operates a wildlife sanctuary where he works to protect animals from hunters, complete with cameras set up all through the woods, in memory of his daughter.

One night, Rayburn sees on his cameras a young woman fleeing through the woods, being pursued by a stalker dressed in animal fur. Rayburn races into the woods, confronts the assailant, and manages to rescue the girl, who he brings back to his home.

But the killer has not given up and follows them back there, around the same time that Sheriff Gustafson arrives for a different matter. What follows next is a brutal game of cat and mouse as the hunt for the killer intensifies.

At the outset, THE SILENCING possessed the look and feel of a couple of other teenage girl murder stories which take place in the wildnerness, Christopher Nolan’s INSOMNIA (2002) and Taylor Sheridan’s WIND RIVER (2017). Now, INSOMNIA and WIND RIVER are both much better movies than THE SILENCING, but this film has its moments.

There’s a twist midway through that I didn’t see coming that I really liked. In fact, it almost gave new meaning to the film’s title, but alas, this doesn’t happen, as it’s followed by a couple of more twists, and unfortunately, there is just one twist too many. I didn’t like the final one, which led to a very standard and disappointing conclusion.

The screenplay by Micah Ranum is bursting with potential but just never really gets there. It’s as if it needed one more rewrite. The pervading feel of gloom is there throughout, seen mostly through Rayburn’s brooding over the unknown fate of his daughter, but also through the lives of everyone living in the area, and it’s here where the script doesn’t finish the job. Other than Rayburn and Sheriff Gustafson, we know very little about the other characters in this one. Had we gotten a real sense about the problems of these people, it would have gone a long way in making this a deeper story.

The dialogue is also nothing to write home about, and as I said, the film’s final twist doesn’t really add anything to the movie. In fact, it makes it worse.

The pacing is also very slow. The film only runs for 93 minutes but at times seemed longer, and this is because there are a lot of scenes where characters are having conversations which seem peripheral to the story rather than getting right down to the very intriguing murder investigation. Director Robin Pront captures the mood of the piece with dreary photography, and the suspense builds early on leading up to the first twist, but later, the intensity dwindles. The ending is predictable, and as such, a letdown.

I definitely enjoyed Annabelle Wallis as Sheriff Gustafson, a flawed and very interesting character who would have been even more so had the writing held up. Wallis of course starred in the TV show PEAKY BLINDERS (2013-1019), and she also starred in ANNABELLE (2014).

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is also excellent as Rayburn, who ends up pretty much being the main character in this one.

The rest of the cast is also very good, including Hero Fiennes Tiffin as Gustafson’s brother Brooks, Melanie Scrofano as Rayburn’s ex-wife Debbie, Zahn McClarnon as officer Blackhawk, who also happens to be Debbie’s current husband, and Charlotte Lindsay Marron as Molly, the teen who Rayburn attempts to rescue.

THE SILENCING is almost a very good movie. Its story just needed a bit more fleshing out. As it stands, it’s a decent thriller with some good acting performances, but at the end of the day, even with a neat twist in the middle, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

As such, I won’t be shouting from the rooftops praising THE SILENCING. No, I’ll be somewhat….. silent.

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