Silent Night is an odd film. It is the type of movie that will sit with you long after the viewing. Thanks to the fantastic cast, great setup, and chilling concept, the movie gets under your skin in the best possible way. If it were not for some tonal issues and slightly odd pacing, it would have been one of the best films out of TIFF 2021. As it stands, it is a brutally depressing look at family and the discomfort they can lead to.
Camille Griffin is a true talent, crafting a film that—on the surface—feels like a light-hearted romp about the end of everything, but holds so much more in store for the viewer. Set during the holidays, it starts as many yuletide stories do, with Christmas music and scenes of all the relatives on their way to a party. Mother of three, Nell (Keira Knightley) and husband Simon (Matthew Goode) are getting everything just right. With the guests approaching and everything ready for the gathering, the film sets up the dynamic we will experience throughout the film. Precocious Art (Roman Griffin Davis) has questions, pushing us to not just accept reality as it is given to him.
“Camille Griffin is a true talent, crafting a film that—on the surface—feels like a light-hearted romp about the end of everything, but holds so much more in store for the viewer. “
This is a setup we have all seen countless times, and it prepares the viewer for the typical holiday fare. Filled with both joy and sorrow, but plenty of family love and mishaps. This is not the direction Silent Night goes in, taking its family in a much more disturbing direction. What started off looking like a simple holiday gathering, quickly turns dark as more details about the holiday are slowly revealed.
With a storm of some nature coming, the country has decided the only solution is that everyone needs to take a pill to die, rather than face the unknown. With little nods to the outcome of the night, though the first act of the film, what started off fun, with a sense of light-hearted joy, quickly sours. Art acts as the voice of reason, questioning all he sees, from why they all need to die, to what the storm means for everyone in their family.
There are countless questions about class struggle and blindly listening to your government. Many characters reflect on not doing anything to help others during their lives. The awkward humour and family dynamics ensure the proceedings (almost) never veer too far from dark dramedy, with the family banter feeling oddly familiar even as they all face inevitable doom.
“Silent Night is a darkly funny horror gem that should not be missed.”
With kids involved, and the pregnant character, Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp), playing a major role in the ensemble efforts, even when things are played in a lighthearted manner, many will feel the bitter bite of where the film will take its cast. The final act opts to embrace the horror-like elements, delivering a brutal ending that could be a hard pill for many to swallow. The storm is far more dangerous than anyone can even imagine, and as the characters come to terms with what they think they have already accepted. The reality of their end quickly comes into focus.
For the most part, Silent Night works. It paints a picture of the end of everything, and how most of us would love to experience it—with family and friends by our sides. Yet, Camille Griffin plays with that idea to make it part of the horror. The resentment and secrets we all keep, come out in a bloodbath of emotion and regret. It is a hard film to watch, but the fantastic cast and darkly comedic elements guide the viewer through some of the most tragic subjects I have seen in a long while (think The Mist). While not for the faint of heart, Silent Night is a darkly funny horror gem that should not be missed.