Saturday, July 5, 2014

Silent Retreat - Review - #horror / #creaturefeature


Silent Retreat (2013) **
D: Tricia Lee
C: Chelsea Jenish, Sofia Banzhaf, Robert Nolan, Jen Pogue, Matthew Romantini, Mark Buck, Jennie Foster, 
Plot Synopsis: Janey is sent to a silent meditation retreat, in the woods, for rehabilitation, only to realize that the men who run it are brainwashing women, and if she breaks the rules, she'll discover what lurks beyond the trees.


Review: A group of misfit girls are sent to a silent retreat ran by a psychiatrist and his two sons. The women are told that they are never allowed to talk and that if they inquire two strikes, that they will be sent to prison instead. In reality though, they are fed to a monster who lurks within the woods surrounding the retreat. Right then and there, I got the message that the film was trying to drive home.

That in modern times, men still, sometimes, expect women to be seen, but not heard and that every woman has a voice that should be heard. There's also the idea that women are a lot stronger then men give them credit for. Now, I can appreciate a film with a message behind it. One of my favorite filmmakers is Katt Shea (Streets). Shea is known for making B movies that have something more considered to say. On the surface, they will satisfy those looking for a B movie, but for those that look a little closer, her films always have something rather intriguing to say.

With Silent Retreat, the message ends up overwhelming the film itself, that the horror elements seem more like an afterthought. You have the idea of silence. Silence can truly be one of the most terrifying things for a person to endure. Think about it. Even when you're completely alone, there is always some kind of noise in the background whether that is a bird chirping, an A/C or heater unit running; there is always some form of sound surrounding us. 

Complete silence, especially when we're around other people, can cause great anxiety. Or when we're alone and no noise seems to be present, our brain always seems to tell us that something is wrong. The terror and panic that silence can induce upon a person is never brought to the screen in a tangible way.

As for the creature feature elements, they feel like something from another film altogether. What distinct purpose does this creature serve to the film's story other then to help dispatch of the cast? When the creature's ultimate motive is revealed, it felt completely bogus, because I was never involved in the story of this creature since it seems so artificial from the rest of the film.

So right now, you may be asking me, what's good about the film? Even though I thought the overall execution was flawed and not fully thought out, I was always present in what was happening in the film. Silent Retreat takes the time to try and develop it's story one layer at a time for about 2/3rd's of the running time. This resulted in me wondering what was going to happen next. The story involved me, even if I didn't necessarily agree with it. And that get's me to my final point.

Silent Retreat obviously has something to say, but the conversation that the film is having with the viewer is one sided. In one scene, a male character explains that he caught his wife cheating on him and thus the silent retreat, but why does he truly feel, in his heart of hearts, that all women needed to be silenced and fit into this idea of conformity? The male characters are treated as caricatures and the horror elements are just kinda there, but have no real significance. In trying to present its message, Silent Retreat fails to hear everything else that's going on around it. [Not Rated] 95 mins. 

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