September 9th, 2022
MOVIE: SPEAK NO EVIL
STARRING: MORTEN BURIAN, SIDSEL SIEM KOCH, FEDJA VAN HUET, KARINA SMULDERS
DIRECTED BY: CHRISTIAN TAFDRUP
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
As a parent watching Speak No Evil there should probably be a content warning prior to viewing. It’s about as bleak and disturbing as it gets and the question will be if audiences can stomach it, but it’s not without purpose, with a haunting message about how the niceties of us can be used against us with detrimental consequences. Speak No Evil is a gathering of two families and what begins as what should be a fun trip of two couples sharing in their journeys of parenting slowly turns into a messed up game of manipulation. Speak No Evil is an unheard of kind of horror and will leave you shocked at everything that it speaks of.
It starts with a family vacation in Tuscany, where Bjorn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) spend time with their 5-year old Agnes (Liva Forsberg), enjoy wine, and the spirits of other guests at their villa. It’s here where they meet Patrick (Fedja van Huet) and Karin (Karina Smulders) and their son Abel (Marius Damslev), he’s a doctor, she’s a stay-at-home mother, and the families share in their joy for vacationing, share a dinner together, and then swap information to possibly spend time together in Holland at some point. A postcard is received by Bjorn, a gathering is planned, and they drive to Patrick and Karin’s for a weekend of family fun. That is till lies are revealed, uncomfortable lines are crossed in views of parenting, and the reality of who people are becomes a terrifying threat to their family existence.
One note that must be stated about Speak No Evil is that it’s not for the faint of heart. Any viewer might even wonder why or how could you recommend this movie to someone? The answer is that director Christian Tafdrup and co-writer Mads Tafdrup are not telling a story with gore or a thirst for obscenities but a dissection of human interactions. The question that audiences will leave with is wondering if they would react differently than characters in this film. Unlike other movies, such as The Human Centipede or Eli Roth’s Hostel, those are films that provoke and pull levers that achieve nothing. There’s an emptiness with that sort of provocation and Speak No Evil is a question about human interactions, the way our kindness can be used against us, and how our protection of family can be broken easier than a pen through a paper cup.
The second half of Speak No Evil is about the daily interactions between these two families but also frustratingly testing us with various moments of when Bjorn and Louise have to get out of this uncomfortable situation. Similar to how Barbarian had me shouting in my mind “don’t go down there!”, viewers will find themselves wondering how a person couldn’t see the signs on the wall. Those are all signs of a great director, a great kind of horror, where the testing of a narrative is authentic, and not in need of ghouls or ghosts to make us scared. Speak No Evil is the kind of horror we need more of because the truest terror is the very people we must live amongst.
The ending of Speak No Evil will be where audiences truly turn their heads away. I couldn’t stomach it and wondered exactly how I could have reconciled giving this a positive review. The proof is in the excellent direction and the heart wrenching conversation I had with my wife soon after. The discussions after are about parenting, welcoming other people we know nothing about, trusting anyone, and putting our words in action to protect the ones we love. Speak No Evil will be hard to stomach but it’s an excellent installment in horror cinema and that should be shouted from the mountaintops.
SPEAK NO EVIL IS NOW PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS AFTER SEPTEMBER 9TH AND WILL BE ON SHUDDER ON SEPTEMBER 15TH, 2022.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady