Silent Retreat Movie Review
Written by Greg Fisher
Released by Midnight Releasing
Directed by Ace Jordan
Written by Ace Jordan, Heather Smith, and Taryn Stenberg
2016, 92 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on January 12th, 2016
Donny Boaz as Zacry Stabard
Rebecca Summers as Meigan De Foresi
Danilo Di Julio as Dale Re
Eli Bildner as Tedi Calcan
Devon Ogden as Lira Tuls
Trista Robinson as Rita Pulis
Co-workers on an offsite work retreat at a remote cabin begin to disappear one by one, as one deals with a past he wishes to forget. If this synopsis sounds familiar, that's because it can also be used to describe Christopher Smith's 2006 horror movie Severance. The difference is that Smith used a pool of more talented actors and relied on a much more nuanced, exciting, and well written script than Ace Jordan concocts for Silent Retreat. The film languishes in bland performances, stilted dialogue, and an overall tepid story devoid of any real horror or suspense.
A more detailed explanation is that the cabin in Silent Retreat is a remodeled mental hospital, where years earlier a sadistic doctor and pedophile orderly abused a child patient. In the present, members of the work retreat instantly start noticing strange occurrences around the place, and the disappearance of one of their team starts a chain of murderous events.
The script is the main impediment of the movie. Each character is either overwhelmingly undefined, or defined aggressively by one trait. Leads Donny Boaz and Rebecca Summers are mild at best as Zacry and Meigan. Zacry is played in monotone, emoting little to no emotion. Meigan's defining characteristic is that she has a British accent. Each of the supporting characters are slavishly one-sided. Dale is the overeager boss; Lira is the sexy office bitchy slut; Rita is religious to the point that she listens to Bible verses while hiking; and Tedi is the wild-card jokester. The audience is reminded of these things every scene. The worst offender is Eli Bildner as Tedi Calcan. Bildner takes the insipid jokes and raunchy idiocy scripted for Tedi and tries to emulate Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. Bildner, however, lacks any of the charisma of Curtis Armstrong, and instead overcompensates by alternating between overacting and underacting, seemingly hoping to meet somewhere is the middle for a solid performance but missing terribly.
The screenwriters took a particularly odd route to the storytelling. They use somewhat effective flashbacks to show the backstory of the hospital, but choose to augment this with a character literally reading entire newspaper articles about the incidents as well. The cardinal rule of storytelling is to show and not tell, but they do both. They add to the insecurity by piling on so many horror movie tropes that the film feels like deja vu of better movies. Creepy recordings are found with a box full of expository news clippings, ghosts are seen in bathroom mirrors but are gone when the character turns to look at them directly, cell phones mysteriously don't work, and a ghost story is used to set the nonexistent tension.
The only place where Jordan shows any promise or confidence is his visuals. The sets are well picked and fleshed out. His lighting and shot composition belongs in a much more deserving picture. Most importantly, he doesn't rely on cheap ghost effects or odd camera angles to tell the story. He relies, poorly, on the script and actors in his well developed shots to do the work. Unfortunately, neither get the job done.
Grades: 1 out of 5 stars