Silent Retreat vs. Silent Retreat!

It’s not the first time I’ve run into two films with the same title that were made within a few years of each other. In this case, I DVRed the creature feature Silent Retreat on Chiller TV, but before watching it, I figured I’d see if it was available commercial and censorship-free on a streaming service. I found a film titled Silent Retreat, but it wasn’t the same movie—it was a slasher. So I knew it was time for a double feature!

SILENT RETREAT (2013)

silent retreat 2013 cover

This creature feature is a throwback to the days of female oppression! A teenage girl is dropped off in the woods at a rehab for wayward girls. It is run by a man and his two sons, the maximum number of patients they have at a time is five, and the rule is absolute silence and, well, pretty much complete subjugation of females.

silent retreat 2013silence

Approximately the first fifteen minutes of the movie have absolutely no dialogue. While absorbing the silence, the main girl notices some weird shit. There are creepy animal sounds coming from the woods at night. The girls are forced to do meditation sessions and afterward, they’re kind of loopy. And when girls get out of line, they are dragged into a mysterious cabin—but of course, can’t talk to the others about what happened to them in there.

silent retreat 2013 meditation

Of course, these are girls, so eventually they’re going to talk! The main girl and her rebellious new friend begin to realize something very fishy is going on at girls’ rehab. They drop a reference to The Stepford Wives, begin digging up the truth, and make a plan to escape. That’s when they find out just what’s waiting for them in the woods….

silent retreat 2013 slash

The second half of the film is when the horror kicks in good. The creature is seen in darkness and shadow with quick edits for most of the film. Thankfully, the color of blood shows up crystal clear through all of it. When we at last get a good look at the creature, it isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, particularly in modern horror films, but it’s effective and fits the tone and tension of the movie well.

silent retreat 2013 monster

Sure, the film has a pretty simply plot and throws in some elements (religion, pregnancy) that feel hastily and haphazardly added with little significance to the narrative, but it’s fun for some cheap thrills and even has a rather tragic moment near the end that really made me feel for the characters.

SILENT RETREAT (2016)

silent retreat 2016 cover

This is one odd little film. It’s almost a really good slasher comedy that revels in its cheesiness, but it just can’t seem to get its plot together. Employees of a company come for a retreat at a lodge in the woods….

silent retreat 2016 bod

A hot nice guy (above), a goofy comic relief guy (love him), a furry daddy bear leader (below), a religious chick (she talks like Sarah Silverman), a hot slut babe, etc.—and spend a good portion of the film bickering, joking, telling scary stories by the fire at night, and having sex. It’s very 80s slasher, so I found it all quite entertaining. There’s even an oddly detailed conversation about Axl Rose as the cherry on top.

silent retreat 2016 bear leader

Meanwhile, one of the gang goes missing, one of them is seeing the ghost of a little boy (above with the hot nice guy), and another digs up information about the perverse past of the lodge’s weird caretaker. Then something even weirder happens. People begin to die, but it almost feels like this movie is turning into a less slapstick Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. For a good portion of the film, no one is actually killed by a psycho but by freak accidents!

silent retreat 2016 bear trap
“Can I throw this one back?  I was hoping to catch the daddy bear above.”

Finally, things get a little shaky, with plot holes, odd flashbacks, and a backstory involving child abuse, torture, and a tongue in a box. Just think. If tongue in a box and dick in a box got together, there would be a party in a box. Come on, you know you were thinking along those lines.

silent retreat 2016 carry

Anyway, there’s nothing scary here, but the mystery of it all does grab your attention, and despite too many illogical moments and unanswered questions, the pace is kept up pretty well and the twist is delicious, even if it makes even more of a mess of the plot. It’s not very often that a movie that should suck has an odd charm that keeps my attention all the way through.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES.

I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.

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