SPEAK NO EVIL (2022)
Release Date: 09/03/22 [SHUDDER / VOD]
Studio: Profile Pictures
"A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Speak No Evil, the third feature film from writer-director Christian Tafdrup, is a technical marvel with an unforgettable, albeit simple, story.
When a Danish family is invited to stay at the house of a nice Dutch family they met on vacation for a weekend retreat from everyday life, they find a lot more than they bargained for. Their politeness is tested, the cultural differences rise to the top, and everything they thought they knew about this family unravels in mysterious and concerning ways.
Tafdrup’s direction is truly phenomenal in this small, intimate story. It’s impossible to understate the horror, tension, and atmosphere that oozes from every part of Speak No Evil. Each frame is a horror story, using lighting, shadows and negative space to keep you on your toes the entire time. Every performance that Tafdrup gets from this ensemble has exactly what it needs to add depth to this simple story. Morten Burian brings out all the discomfort of a non-assertive Bjørn, and Sidsel Siem Koch gives it her all in the role of Louise. As these characters begin to realize the horror in front of them and find themselves unable to change anything, the actors add layers of dissatisfaction and hopelessness that keep the story intriguing. But put simply, it's the work of Fedja van Huêt that holds this film together. His ability to play the all-too-friendly Patrick with complete sincerity makes every interaction uneasy, but it keeps you guessing whether its just your own paranoia that has you scared. Editor Nicolaj Monberg allows shots to hold for unholy lengths of time, and the tone it creates is dread. Add in Erik Molberg Hansen’s dark cinematography, and you will believe every shot has a hidden horror. Hansen often eclipses entire regions of the frame in darkness contrasting with a bright light source and it's extremely effective in keeping you on the edge of your seat.
Sune Kølster’s music may be the unsung hero of Speak No Evil though, as its simple and repeated motifs drive the tension up with every scene. And when the score goes silent, when the sound design team lets the natural soundscape of a country night take center stage, it becomes truly terrifying. Speak No Evil is so technically terrifying that it will test your resolve to make it through to the end of the film.
And sadly, its Speak No Evil’s ending that informs whether this story is worth the tense journey to watch. Fundamentally, if you love the horror genre, it's hard to not recommend it. It's tense in all the best ways and shows that this crew has a lot of talent and promise. But while Tafdrup's direction is entrancing throughout, his writing is overly simple and lacks much substance. Speak No Evil may have a greater meaning to the Dutch and Danish national relationships, but for the casual western audience, its message of speaking out against the evil others do feels a bit simple and hollow. Adding to all of this is a film that is shot and composed to build paranoia, but a plot that doesn’t establish any stakes until late into the third act. It’s these issues that are brought to the foreground when its ending is so shockingly empty.
But don’t let that scare you away from this project. Shudder has acquired a stellar horror film to add to its library, and for all of its faults, its still a gripping experience that horror fans will adore.