Wednesday, January 27, 2016

SILENT RETREAT (2016) - #Thriller / #Horror #IndieFilm Review

Theatrical Poster for SILENT RETREAT
Theatrical Poster for SILENT RETREAT - image source: Midnight Releasing

The slasher film meets the modern corporate world as young media professionals start losing their tongues to a mysterious, unknown assailant while on retreat at a lodge in San Bernardino County. Who is doing this and why? The answer lies in the dark past of their retreat's location.


Background and Credits


SILENT RETREAT is the first feature-length film from writer-producer-director-editor Ace Jordan ("Kill Devil Hill" [Short], 2010).  The cast includes Donny Boaz ("13 Sins," 2014), Rebecca Summers, Danilo Di JulioEli BildnerDevon Ogden ("Lazarus Rising," 2015), Aidan FlynnTrista Robinson, and Landon Ashworth. Produced by Jordan and Rick Tucker, the film is a co-production of Starko Entertainment, Tucker Family Productions, and Jordanfilm Empirical Pictures. It was released in the U.S. on January 12th, 2016 on DVD and VOD via Midnight Releasing.

Story Summary


The official summary of the story (by Heather Smith and Taryn Stenberg) goes like this:

Six members of a media company go on a weekend business retreat at an isolated lodge in the woods. When one of the members goes missing, they discover that the lodge was formerly a private mental institution that had been shut down after allegations of devious misconduct. One by one, they fall victim to the dark secrets buried at the lodge.

Commentary


The story of this indie horror movie follows the classic slasher template, including most of the tropes that one would expect. There is the "cabin in the woods" with its malevolent entity that seeks revenge by killing innocent victims. And, yes, it's so far out in the countryside that mobile phones don't work. However, it is a cinematically good choice, as the location (Big Bear Lake, California) is very camera-friendly.

There is also the basic slasher cast of five primary victims: the socially-awkward male nerd, Tedi (Bildner) and two couples. The first couple is the sexually-active one. The devious and sexy Lira (Ogden) brings along her rich, narcissistic boyfriend Joel (Ashworth) for a weekend of sex (yes, on a corporate retreat) and also for relationship conflict. The Platonic couple is Zacry (Boaz) and Meigan (Summers), who are thrown together as roommates on the retreat. While exploring the lodge out of curiosity, Meigan finds a cache of items from the past that reveal the building's dark history. Meanwhile, Zacry (who has a not-so-secret crush on Meigan) starts to have paranormal encounters with the ghost of a child (Flynn).

Three additional characters make this group somewhat less stereotypical. There is the group's manager, Dale (Di Julio), and an additional nerdy, socially-awkward character, Rita (Robinson), a woman whose geekiness lies in her religiosity. She's the first victim, of course. There is also a creepy caretaker, Mr. Warren (Circus-Szalewski), who serves as the primary suspect for most of the film.

Although it follows a slasher template, SILENT RETREAT does not feature gore or grue as its main attraction. That's because it's primarily a psychological horror-thriller (think "Angel Heart" without the noir atmosphere). Figuring out who's doing the killings and why (disclosed in flashbacks to the lodge's history, which employ an "evil psychiatrist" trope) is the point. The identity of the killer is, in fact, the most original feature of this movie. Although it's in plain sight for the entire movie, you might miss it until a significant clue emerges in the third act.

The killer's acts of violence are not particularly gory until the third act. Although the killer's preferred method of dispatching victims is cutting out their tongues (and there's a good reason for this choice, as the movie poster hints), this act is only fleetingly shown on the screen, although its bloody results are used to good effect in a scene intercut with the movie's end credits. The creative use of a bear trap as a killing device (as shown in the trailer below) is another good example of the minimal grue in this film.

Summary


Although it's an improvisation on a well-established theme, SILENT RETREAT is definitely an entertaining film. More of a popcorn flick than a potential horror cult classic, it's worth a watch. More information on theater showings and options for viewing at home can be found at the following links:

Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
YouTube (trailers, interviews and behind-the-scenes videos)

Midnight Releasing (all sources for DVD and VOD)
DVD at WalMart
VUDU

TFK's Rating (on IMDb): 6 out of 10 stars





DisclosureMike Brooks of Starko Entertainment, LLC provided TFK with access to an online screener of SILENT RETREAT for review purposes only. This website and its author received no monetary or other form of compensation for this review.