Tuesday 26 May 2020

Don't Speak aka Silent Place (UK 2020: Dir Scott Jeffrey) NEW WAVE OF THE BRITISH FANTASTIC FILM 2020

Scott Jeffrey is emerging as one of the more interesting independent horror directors working in the UK at the moment. So far this year three of his films have been or will be released, and I'll cover the other two in future posts.

Let's get the problematic stuff out of the way first. Don't Speak falls into the category of films which are recognisably British both in location and other visual clues (UK license plates, 13 amp sockets etc) but have their cast speak in - largely unconvincing - US accents. Sometimes the director can get away with it: at other times it's consistently irritating, which is the case here. The second, and perhaps more forgivable thing - as movie makers have been doing it pretty much since the trade began - is that the premise of the movie is a direct steal from 2018's A Quiet Place (both titles of the film pretty much seal the deal on that one).

The reason for mentioning those issues first is that Don't Speak is actually a really good film. It's tense, impressively gory, and makes you care for its characters, even if they are only thinly fleshed out.

Parents Rita (Stephanie Lodge) and Alan (Ryan Davies) drive to see Rita's mother Mary (Nicola Wright), after her father was hospitalised with heart problems. But we've already seen Rita's mum's neighbours attacked by a gloopy humanoid 'something', and while Rita and Alan are en route in their Jeep and caravan attachment, complete with son Ben (Jake Watkins), younger sister Charlie (Georgina Jane, from 2019's Pet Graveyard) and her boyfriend Tyler (Will Stanton), the creature has moved on to Mary's house. When the family arrive, passing a sign on a closed gate which ominously reads 'Caution - testing in progress' (which will be important) Mary is nowhere to be seen. They drive back to the nearest village, which also seems to be deserted, as is the local pub. Alan is looking round when he's confronted with a badly injured man man in army fatigues, covered in blood who, as he dies, exclaims: "They made something in the lab. It got out."

And so the stage is set for a tense stand off between the artificially created being, which is blind and senses its victims via sonar (hence the need to be quiet, although plot wise this element is a little patchily applied), and the family. In its way, this is good old fashioned British science fiction film stuff (which is, I suppose, why I was disappointed by the deployment of the American accents - the film is better than that), with the terrified family trying to stay alive against a backdrop of the familiar - the country cottage, the pub and the family's caravan, which becomes a claustrophobic setting for much of the action.

Performance wise the standout here is Georgina Jane as Charlie. We learn early on in the film that she's pregnant, and there's always the possibility that this fertility might feature rather nastily in the plot: and it does, but not in the way you might expect. Jane's fear is thoroughly plausible; indeed the whole cast play fright and panic well, and while one or two plot points go nowhere, and at times the editing is a little uneven, this is a solid film which, apart from the aforementioned influence, also reminded me of 1982's Xtro. Gruelling and pretty good all round.

No comments:

Post a Comment