The first half of the latest film from Belgian-born director Robin Pront, The Silencing, is quite good, due largely to the fact that it feels like the beginning, middle and end of a very short crime thriller. The story opens with the discovery of a young woman’s body that we’ve seen travel downstream a great distance in the woods. There’s a distinct arrowhead lodged in her chest cavity, and it’s becoming clear to local authorities, led by Sheriff Gustafson (Annabelle Wallis of the Annabelle movies, no relation), that they may have a serial killer in their midst who hunts these young women in the woods using a type of arrow-delivery weapon that is more a spear than a bow.
The killer’s next victim is discovered by Rayburn (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”), a reformed hunter who now runs an animal sanctuary and whose own teen daughter went missing five years earlier. That incident led to the end of his marriage to Debbie (Melanie Scrofano), who is still around and dating Native American lawman Blackhawk (Zahn McClarnon, who gave such a memorable performance in Doctor Sleep). The relationship between the small local sheriff’s department and the tribal authorities is one of the more interesting pieces to this mystery, as jurisdiction becomes a question from time to time, especially when it comes to Gustafson’s troublemaker brother (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), who tends to cross those boundaries whenever he feels like it.
Rayburn attempts to protect the would-be victim, Molly (Charlotte Lindsay Marron), by bringing her to his isolated cabin right when the sheriff decides to pay him a visit about another matter. Things get heated and confusing, and Gustafson ends up shooting Rayburn in the process just as the real killer delivers what may be the fatal blow to his intended target, Molly. In the middle of this relatively short feature, it appears the identity of the killer is established, and he is caught soon after, so the film begins to feel as if it’s winding down. It’s more than simply a false ending that often accompanies these types of red herrings in whodunnit stories. The Silencing actually feels like it’s about to end, until it becomes clear that the wrong suspect has been captured. Sadly, the rest of the story doesn’t live up to the promise of the curious first part, and the more obvious aspects of the location and characters come together in more predictable and obvious ways.
Rayburn is a man trapped in his own head, grieving and wondering about his daughter’s disappearance. His divorce is on the verge of being finalized, and when he finds Molly in the woods, it releases something in him that feels like a purpose. He gave up hunting because his daughter didn’t like his brutal (and quite effective) methods, but he’s able to pull from this skill set when he sets his sights on capturing the real killer. Working from a screenplay by Micah Ranum, director Pront keeps his dreary-looking plot moving briskly, with just enough mildly predictable twists to keep audiences engaged. It seems every major character in The Silencing is some degree of broken, with the events of this film only making their issues worse. It makes for solid interpersonal drama, but not when it comes to populating something a bit more intriguing like a murder mystery.
More importantly, when we do finally learn who the hunter-killer really is (and we know it’s someone in the town that we’ve met, because he wears a full camo hunting outfit that covers his face and makes his entire body look like shrubbery), it’s impossible for us to know the killer’s motivation for murdering young women until the moment he tells us. The reveal is so anticlimactic that I doubt you’ll care much when the truth is exposed. A final showdown between Rayburn and the killer seems pointless—there are few things less visually interesting than two characters running around the foggy woods looking for each other. The Silencing concludes with a fizzle more than the required jolt, and while Coster-Waldau and Wallis are quite good here, they can’t make better parts of this film that simply aren’t strong to begin with. It’s a noble effort, and I’m curious to see what the filmmaker does next, but this one is skippable.
The film is available OnDemand.
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