Film Review – Of Silence
Jeremiah Sayys’s independent psychological horror film, Of Silence, is an enigma. The movie unravels slowly, dropping off clues here and there to broaden the story and to key you in to the events going on, but the more information I received, it felt like the less I knew. It’s like peeling back the proverbial layers of an onion only to reveal a hollow center. It’s a shame too, because the film is really quite good up until the final closing scene.
Colby (Jeremiah Sayys) is a man in distress. He’s just come home from a scuba diving trip to a heap of debt collection notices and foreclosure warnings. There are letters threatening to turn off the power and other utilities, but these are the least of his problems. He’s grieving over the untimely death of his wife who appears to him in visions at various times throughout the film. His family seems fairly unsupportive in regards to his grief, inviting themselves over to celebrate his birthday and laughing and joking despite his silence, his sadness, his despondency. But the strangest thing troubling him is a strange presence that lurks around in the house casting a dark mist and producing strange noises in the darkness.
Sayys does a lot with a little budget. It was shot on film which adds a clarity and quality, a saturation, to the visuals and the film looks distinctive and polished. From the opening scene that swoops down from a bird’s eye view of his house to him standing there holding his luggage as it continues to follow him to the front door, to the tilted camera that tracks him from a low angle down a hallway, there are some great scenes here. It was also a smart idea to film in one location: not only does this reduce cost, but the film felt claustrophobic and tight and this added to the tension throughout.
I wish the plot would have been as tight. The film effectively carries a sense of dread, through the brilliant use of sound and darkness. There are some great moments that play with shadow and light, where a character sits and converses but is shrouded in darkness. This motif is expertly deployed. But the film itself wears thin on dread as it progresses, because it’s such a slow burn. The family coming together to celebrate his birthday felt like an unnecessary and overlong plot contrivance. There are a few important revelations that come about from Colby and his family’s interactions, but I feel they could have been handled more efficiently.
It also didn’t help that despite the persistent “revelations,” I still had no idea what was going on. Each new piece of information was supposed to enlighten me, and help me to further understand what was going on, but while they broadened the scope of the plot, they didn’t enlighten me at all. Once the final scene closed, I felt as if this was only one in a sequence of films or as if there was a great deal of exposition left on the cutting room floor. If it’s the former, then it’s unfortunate: even if a film is part of a larger series, it should have the ability to stand on its own. If it’s the latter, then I understand the desire to not overly complicate the plot, but I was left with a feeling that the film was unfinished. In some small regard, this could be seen as a compliment, however: I wanted to see more.
Of Silence is a strong independent psychological horror film. The cinematography, the sound design, the overall direction are all good. The acting from Sayys and his cast range from fair to great, with no real duds. But the film opens promisingly and builds up a great sympathy for Colby and his tragic situation, and builds up a satisfying tension and brilliant sense of dread and suspense, but I was left wanting more. This film is definitely a clear sign of a director with a clear sense of vision and I hope with his next feature he can reign in his impulse for obfuscation. The unknown can definitely trigger fear, especially when it comes from darkness, but there is a balance that needs to be maintained. I look forward to future films from Jeremiah Sayys, and there were parts of this film that I enjoyed immensely, but overall, it is unfortunately an exercise in frustration.