Silent Night kicks off the holiday horror season with one of the strongest releases of the year. Written before the pandemic, the story sees a well to do family meet with loved ones at a quaint house in the English countryside. A small feast has been prepared, everyone is dressed in their finest clothes, and the kids are all bathed. Best of all, they have all come together to honor their pact: each of them is going to die.
Kierra Knightley, Roman Griffin Davis, and Annabelle Wallis are just some of the names attached to the all star cast. Unsurprisingly, the acting is fantastic. Davis shines as the foul mouthed Art and steals many scenes. The tone of Silent Night is not as predictable, however. What starts as a wacky Christmas movie complete with oddball characters takes a dark turn. There is no slow build and the audience is just thrown into the deep end.
The film is one of the best written of the year. Seemingly innocuous details mean much more as things progress. Audiences will constantly find themselves putting the pieces together. Silent Night takes full advantage of its single setting. The plot does not call for a feeling of claustrophobia, but isolation is a key theme. Placing the entire movie in a spacious home fills both needs. There is a sense that the people gathered are cut off from the rest of the world.
This leads perfectly into one of the movie’s rarely stated but easily seen themes. Silent Night is a tale about privilege. The house they are spending Christmas at and the cars they drive give something of a clue. Character interactions and news reports fill in the blanks. While Art (Davis), the son of Nell (Kiera Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) talks about choice, it is clear only certain people have been given any sort of option.
The script takes on other topics as well. Family, trust in the news and the government, and misinformation all come up. (Again, this was written pre-COVID.) There are also internal family strife and secrets that come out. All the while, everyone is dealing with an imminent disaster. If it sounds like there is a lot going on in Silent Night, that is because there is. But writer-director Camille Griffin is able to weave everything together smoothly in a tale that will resonate with audiences.
The Toronto International Film Festival takes place from September 9 – September 18
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