Dir. Christian Tafdrup (2022)
A young Danish couple and their daughter meet a Dutch family on holiday and accept their invitation to visit their home. Suffice to say, things don't go well.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
I've heard so many good things about this movie that I decided it was high time to check it out. The film is based on an experience that the director had where he was invited to visit someone that he met while on vacation. His mind wandered, considering all of the terrible things that could happen if he accepted. He never went, but he put his darkest visions into a script and brought Speak No Evil to the screen. The result is an incredibly uncomfortable movie that feels like a Danish/Dutch homage to Funny Games.
When couple Bjorn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) are invited to the home of the Dutch couple they meet on vacation, they initially balk at the idea, thinking it would be weird for them to travel to another country to stay with a family they've barely met. They're right, but they eventually decide to drive the six hours to Patrick and Karin's house (played by real-life couple Fedja van Huet and Karina Smulders) anyway. Things are just a little bit off from the moment they arrive, and trust me when I say that they only get worse.
Director Christian Tafdrup plays things close to the vest throughout, and while there is more than enough to believe there's something not quite right about Patrick, Karin, and their son Abel (Marius Damslev), it takes quite a while before we realize exactly what is missing. Tafdrup delivers a tense slow-burn with a delightfully teased crescendo, and once the "oh shit!" moments start coming, they don't let up until the credits roll.
I won't give away any of the events of the film, but I will say that I really appreciated just how dark this one got. It's distressing and harsh, an edge-of-your-seat buildup to a final, pitch-black finale. The climax of the film is brutal, disturbing, and one that is just as effective where you saw it coming from the beginning or not. It feels like so often directors lose their nerve before approaching that do-or-die moment that really makes the film, but Tafdrup pulls no punches in this critique of politeness, social mores, and choice.
There are so many times throughout the film where Bjorn and Louise could have made different choices, yet they are constrained by their own social constructs to continue walking down the road that may eventually lead to their doom. Unlike in Funny Games, there is nothing here that is not beyond their control. They aren't captives, but are free to go at any point in time. And yet, despite their misgivings, despite the continual hints that something isn't right, they stay the course and continue down their path.
The idea behind the movie is brilliant, a realistic setup that is nonetheless terrifying. I don't blame Tafdrup a bit for not wanting to visit his newfound friends if these were some of the thoughts going through his head. I haven't been in love with a lot of the films being released by Shudder as of late, but this one was definitely a hit. All of the buzz on social media is right: this is one that shouldn't be missed.
Who this movie is for: Slow burn horror fans, Foreign horror lovers, Travelers
Bottom line: Packed to the absolute brim with dread, Speak No Evil is a movie with a moral: politeness should only extend so far, and woe be it to the traveler who doesn't know when to say that enough is enough. The acting, directing, and cinematography are phenomenal, and the score is haunting and fits perfectly with the flow of the film. This is a must see. Check it out streaming on Shudder.