Producer: Cybill Lui Eppich Director: Robin Pront Screenplay: Micah Ranum Cast: Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Annabelle Wallis, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Melanie Scrofano, Shaun Smyth, Zahn McClarnon and Patrick Garrow Distributor: Saban Films
There’s more than a whiff of a grim “Criminal Minds”-like police procedural to Belgian director Robin Pront’s sophomore (and first English-language) feature. Micah Ranum’s script opens with a young woman’s corpse floating downriver in the Midwestern woods, prompting an investigation by local sheriff Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis). The victim is merely the latest victim in a spree of kidnappings that has bedeviled the area: there are so many “missing girl” posters around town that it’s a wonder TV’s BAU hasn’t been called in long before now. They probably could have cleared things up in fifty minutes, after all.
As it is, Sheriff Gustafson and her deputy Blackhawk (Zahn McClarnon) are the prime investigators. One of the chief suspects—at least as far as he’s concerned, is her brother Brooks (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), a troubled young man still traumatized by abuse he suffered years before. But Gustafson refuses to believe he could possibly be the guilty party.
And there’s another person just as eager to track down the killer: Rayburn (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau), a former hunter who now runs an animal sanctuary, which he use
Rayburn does spy somebody traipsing through the woods, and thinking him a hunter goes out to investigate. The man, dressed in a suit of foliage to blend in with the surroundings, attacks him with spears launched from an atlatl and escapes. But that doesn’t deter Rayburn, and eventually he’ll find a mute girl (Melanie Scofano) who’d been the villain’s victim and try to save her. He’ll also follow a clue to the perpetrator’s lair, where he will discover the motive behind the killer’s reign of terror. Meanwhile Gustafson continues her efforts, and though she’s dubious about Rayburn himself, eventually, helped by a weapons expert (Patrick Garrow) as well as a doctor, uncovers clues that take her, too, to the villain’s hideout.
“The Silencing” tries hard to be a harrowing character study as well as a suspenseful serial-killer thriller, and frankly it’s mediocre on both counts, although Coster-Waldau brings some grim intensity to the angst-ridden father. Though red herrings are strewn about like confetti, the script by Micah Ranum plays reasonably fair with the audience, even if the villain’s motive, when revealed, strains credulity. (His camouflage suit also looks faintly ridiculous.) The only other figure given much attention is Gustafson, but her main trait—her relationship with her brother—is only perfunctorily explored. Her name might recall Marge Gunderson, but she has nothing of that character’s weird charm.
The rest of the cast is okay, but Pront’s direction is prosaic, and together with Zosia Mackenzie’s grubby production design, Manu Dacosse’s dark cinematography and Alain Dessauvage’s languid editing, and Brooke and Will Blair’s mournful score —only occasionally vivified by the action scenes—makes the film feel considerably longer than it actually is.
There’s nothing terribly wrong with “The Silencing,” but like so many low-budget thrillers, it boasts little to distinguish it from standard-issue episodic small-screen fare.