Since Netflix is charging us more now for more content, we’re definitely getting more, for better or worse. So are horror films Thriller and The Silence worth the price hike of admission? With its high-quality original programming in place, it now looks like Netflix is filling the gaps with cheap knockoff horror.
The tone and style of this urban slasher remind me of the countless low budget slashers released during the Scream slasher revival. At the same time, it is a blatant copycat of the original 1980 Prom Night in many respects—short of being as effective. Remember the kids in the derelict building scaring the little girl until she fell out a window? The same scenario happens here with a slight twist.
When we next meet our kids in high school, just as in Prom Night we are given a flashback to each one during that past incident as they are introduced in teenage form.
To kill time before the big dance at the end, the film generically explores the life of teens in the ghetto. It comes across as predictable pandering to me, checking off all the ghetto experience boxes. It’s not easy or even a good idea to infuse social commentary into slasher fluff, but of course if you are going to set your slasher in the ghetto, you’re somewhat obligated to address the issue to some extent.
There’s another familiar stumbling block I see here as in so many minority interpretations of slasher films. It’s not enough to just replace the usual white straight kids with a group that is black, gay, Spanish, etc. Thriller is a shell of the subgenre, delivering every cliché in the book (chases, newspaper clippings, red and blue lighting, the shadowy form appearing behind victims), but it simply isn’t suspenseful enough, the kills are totally forgettable, and there’s little in the way of gore short of a blood-pumping knife.
For instance, if you’re going to replicate Wendy’s chase scene through the school in Prom Night, you need to bring it to a new level. This chase can’t even catch up to Wendy.
There is one major aspect in which Thriller strays from the Prom Night template; we know who the killer is! Blah. And he lives with his mom! Double blah. Not exactly ominous or intriguing, but it does seem to be making a statement about a) momma’s boys, particularly as it pertains to ghetto life, and b) recent headlines concerning black identity. The killer wears a hoodie, but unless you’re a sick, racist, right wing nut with a gun, a guy in a hoodie is not going to get your nerves in a knot.
For someone like me, who is totally in it for the fluff, the best part is the kids doing a sexy synchronized dance at a party. I’m always up for a synchronized dance scene, and I blame She’s All That. Oh, and I like the short but sweet kill scene involving a couple having sex in a car.
THE SILENCE (2019)
Joining the ranks of what I would call a new “sensory deprivation” horror subgenre (A Quiet Place, Bird Box), this one feeds off those specific films and pours in a gallon of Bats for good measure.
In a jolting casting move, Sabrina plays a deaf girl, while her mother is played by her Aunt Zelda from Chilling Adventures! WTF? Talk about brand placement.
Stanley Tucci plays her father, and Aidan from Sex and the City is also along for the ride.
Once news reports announce the country is under attack and that people need to stay indoors and keep absolutely quiet, the family, fluent in sign language for their daughter’s sake…immediately leaves and gets in a car! Um…cars make NOISE.
That’s what is rather annoying about this otherwise entertaining if not cliché film. Noise only becomes an instant problem when it is convenient for the plot. For example, there’s a full scene in which an outdoor argument leads to gunfire without any sign of a creature attacking, yet a single soft step on the ground or the hiss of a snake deep within a pipeline gets the bat creatures’ attention immediately.
And dammit, just as a warning…there’s a scene that while not in any way graphically presented, involves the family dog.
The bat creatures are pretty cool looking, and there is a sick plot move that turns The Silence temporarily into a home invasion film, but just when that part starts ramping up, the film is abruptly and inconclusively concluded.