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First Look Review - SILENT RETREAT

A business retreat takes a dark turn.



Review by Ren Zelen (@renzelen)

Directed by: Ace Jordan

Starring: Donny Boaz, Rebecca Summers, Danilo Di Julio, Landon Ashworth, Devon Ogden, Eli Bildner, Aidan Flynn



Although the movie doesn’t offer anything too original or scary, it presents a well-handled and lively balance between psychological thriller and supernatural shocker right up until the end.


There’s a gripping and intriguing prologue to Silent Retreat, and this is a clever move on the part of the film-makers as it’s a major factor in why we keep watching the rest of the movie. That is to say, nothing much in the way of horror actually happens for the first half of the film once it starts in earnest. Instead, we’re given a leisurely introduction to the participating characters.
Not sure why this is necessary, as they are all rather familiar types and the general plot proves to be a stock horror set up: A mixed bunch of six young people, all members of the same media company, roll up to an isolated cabin by a lake in the woods one weekend for a ‘business retreat’. We have: the ineffectual boss, the slut and her rich, gullible boyfriend, the perky religious fanatic, the ‘nice’ girl and the ‘nice’ guy (who likes the nice girl but hasn’t had the courage to make a move yet) and an irritating horny, loser dude that provides so-called comic relief with his tasteless ‘quips’ and general sleaziness to women. So, more or less the characters that Joss Whedon parodied in his Cabin in the Woods movie. Oh, and let’s not forget the dodgy caretaker and creepy ghost-kid.
When the na├»ve, religious girl goes jogging early in the morning and doesn’t come back all day, her merry co-workers don’t notice until it’s pointed out to them by the ‘nice’ girl while they’re partying long into the night. Yes, they’re that dumb.
Wandering about the sleeping lodge in the wee small hours waiting for the errant jogger to jog back (in the dead of night?) the ‘nice’ girl goes up into the attic, like you do in a strange house, and finds an old trunk containing tapes, a convenient tape-player and some newspaper clippings. This little stash will reveal that the very place they are staying in was remodelled from a former institution for wayward children which had been shut down years ago after allegations of misconduct and child abuse. The ‘nice’ girl consolidates her discovery by reading all the news clippings aloud to herself in full voice (because her lips move uncontrollably when she reads quietly?).
Nevertheless, ‘Hurrah!’ we cheer,’ We finally get to see how that excellent, atmospherically shot opening prologue slots into the story!’ Unfortunately, this was also about the time I guessed what the ‘twist’ reveal at the denouement was going to be. Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I’m not saying that the ending is telegraphed during the movie or anything that obvious - other viewers have said that the film kept them guessing, but I’m afraid I’ve probably just seen too many movies and read too many horror books in my time, and it takes a pretty unusual turn in an original story to surprise me with a ‘twist’ nowadays.
Having said all that, the thing that elevates Silent Retreat from the average to the eminently watchable is the fact that is has such high production values. It makes the most of some gorgeous locations and is beautifully shot. IMDB estimates the movie’s likely budget at around $600,000 (I’m afraid that I don’t have exact figures) but I have to commend the production crew in using every penny of their funds extremely well.  The money has all gone up on screen and the film benefits – suffice to say, it looks good. The movie doesn’t contain many special effects, but those we have are effectively executed. (There is a nice shock moment when particularly good use is made of a simple bear trap).
Also, although the film utilizes fairly familiar horror characters, at least they have the advantage of actors who play them with marginally more competency and panache than we usually find in low-budget indie horror movies. Donny Boaz does a good job as Zach, Eli Bildner is convincing as the repugnant slacker Teddy, who isn’t nearly as funny as he thinks he is and almost makes Devon Ogden’s duplicitous hard-bitch Lira seem pleasant to be around. The cast play off of each other comparatively well, and the result is some good onscreen chemistry. Lastly, the young Aidan Flynn gives a suitably chilling performance as the disturbed boy.
Although the movie doesn’t offer anything too original or scary, it presents a well-handled and lively balance between psychological thriller and supernatural shocker right up until the end. If you fancy an undemanding but stylish-looking thriller, you could do worse than settling down with your popcorn in front of Silent Retreat on a slow Saturday night.
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