SILHOUETTE (October 30th)
YOU'VE GOT RED ON YOU TAKES PART IN THE 31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN CHALLENGE; WATCHING ONE HORROR MOVIE A DAY THROUGHOUT OCTOBER. SOME OF THEM OLD, SOME OF THEM NEW, SOME OF THEM HAVE JUST BEEN ON OUR SHELVES FOR YEARS GATHERING DUST, STILL IN CELLOPHANE...
Dealing with grief can be a potent subject for horror movies. Losing a loved one – especially a child – is something that has been explored in a number of genre films down the years, most recently in Ari Aster's Hereditary (and Midsommar to a lesser extent). Sure, exploring grief doesn't usually make for a 'fun' viewing experience but it can be so harrowing and oppressive that there's little wonder that more film-makers use it as a basis for their stories. Last night I watched Countdown, a film where people are offed left, right and centre. However like a lot of movies, we don't focus on the aftermath of these deaths. Countdown isn't that type of film in any way – and dwelling on loss and raw emotional pain isn't always a crowd pleaser. However I was after something a bit more weighty and affecting after the undemanding fun of last night's pick so I chose to watch Mitch McLeod's Silhouette, an indie supernatural horror that's been getting promising reviews from those that have seen it thus far.
Amanda and Jack are a married couple who decide to move to a more rural secluded setting in an effort to repair their marriage and recover from the death of their young daughter. However, although Jack is doing his best to put on a brave face and be positive about their new future, Amanda is paralysed with grief and guilt. She's not convinced that moving house is going to make much difference either. However she's wrong on that front, the house does indeed begin to make a difference, albeit not a positive one. Her emotional torment and misery and bickering with her husband is compounded by horrific visions and harrowing nightmares. Some involving her recently departed daughter. Is she losing her mind or is there something more insidious going on?
Well I'm not going to tell you. But what I will say is that for a film shot on a purported budget of just $25,000, Silhouette is an impressively accomplished piece of film-making. At 110 minutes it may actually be a tad overlong but from a technical perspective it maintains a level of competence throughout. The direction is measured and contemplative and the aesthetic is impressively morose. It's dark, it's washed out, it's melancholy. There is no colour or brightness in the lives of our characters and the visuals embody that sense of anguish and claustrophobia perfectly. For a film with such a modest budget it also delivers on the chills too. Although a lot of this film is essentially drama, there is an undercurrent of horror running through its veins. The realisation of this is effectively realised and rather than attempting over the top visual effects or cheap jump scares, Silhouette instead relies on a steady build up dread along with some subtle visual depictions. There are times when it is more full on but the decision to make these the exception rather than the rule works in its favour.
But what really drives the film are the performances from April Hartman and Tom Zebrod. This is a film with a very small cast list, which only adds to the sense of isolation and insularity. In fact, you probably won't find a scene where one of these two isn't in it. Like Hereditary, the true horror comes not just from ghostly visions and sinister otherworldly forces but from the breakdown of human relationships. As the story of Silhouette slowly unravels, we begin to realise that this was not a solid relationship before their shared tragedy and old wounds have been left to fester. Zebrod has the unenviable task of portraying an extremely flawed husband but does so with the right amount of humanity for the viewer so feel some level of empathy with him. However April Hartman steals the show with a deeply poignant performance as the grief stricken mother unable to move on. Playing a mother who has lost her child is probably one of the most difficult roles to play but she does it with a raw sincerity.
There is a section in the third act when the film lags a little and feels a bit too contemplative but the last few minutes are powerful enough to make that nothing more than an aside. Some may not enjoy a lot of what Silhouette has to offer but that's actually a compliment to how well Silhouette handles the subject of grief. It's not meant to be enjoyable. It's meant to be affecting and unsettling. And on both counts, it's a roaring success.