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Film Review: ‘Silent Night’ Mixes Holiday Cheer with Something Truly Unsettling

RLJE Films
RLJE Films

The holiday season brings out both the best and the worst in people. In normal times, it’s stressful and a mish-mash of divergent personalities. Now, if you factor in the potential end of the world, things are just raised up a notch. We all learned that first-hand, to a degree, when Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the like happened during quarantine. That feeling is invoked to funny, horrifying, and tragic effect in Silent Night, a very different sort of holiday film. The hybrid nature of it all may be cringe-inducing for some, but for most, it’ll be a welcome new spin on a very old sort of movie. A new Christmas classic? Maybe not, but for the twisted among you, it certainly has a shot.

Silent Night is a mix of comedy, horror, and Christmas. When it’s funny, it does a pretty savage job skewering holidays with your family and friends. When it’s going for more genre trappings, it’s less original, but the mixture does work. Individually, you’ve seen this sort of thing before. Jammed together, though? This is decidedly something new.

RLJE Films

Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode), along with their children, are prepping for Christmas. Along with their son Art (Roman Griffin Davis), they’re about to host family and friends for the holidays. Slowly but surely, everyone arrives, including Sandra (Annabelle Wallis), Bella (Lucy Punch), Sophie (Lily-Rose Depp), Alex (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), James (Sope Dirisu), and Tony (Rufus Jones). Various couples have their own issues, as well as trouble intermingling. The stage is set for a dinner full of laughs and drama. There’s only one issue…tonight is also when they’re all going to die. You see, a deadly gas is coming to the UK and will poison them, so the government has given out suicide pills. Every man, woman, and child has one. The end is truly nigh.

With the big moment approaching, the family tries to have a good time, but Art in particular is stressing, deciding not to take the pill. While they Zoom with Grandma (Trudie Styler) to say goodbye, the deadly cloud gets closer. Of course, it all builds to some dramatic moments, as well as a surprise or two. I won’t say more, but it’s not quite what you expect, mostly for the better.

RLJE Films

The cast does an all-around solid job, even if no one quite stands out. Frankly, most of them are under-utilized, with Lily-Rose Depp, Matthew Goode, Lucy Punch, and Annabelle Wallis among them. The exceptions are Keira Knightley, who gets to shine, and especially Roman Griffin Davis, who is best in show. The former is no surprise, but the latter solidifies that he’s the real deal. The aforementioned cast members are totally fine, it’s just you wish there was more for them to do. Other supporting players include Holly Aird, Dora Davis, Gilby Griffin Davis, Hardy Griffin Davis, Davida McKenzie, and more.

Filmmaker Camille Griffin mixes genres well here, though she does take a turn for the serious by the end. Initially, however, this is a bit of a lark, which makes the hard right turn even more jarring. Mostly, it’s to strong effect, though the ending doesn’t quite land. Up until then, Griffin has Silent Night largely firing on all cylinders. The ending, meant to be a shocker, isn’t too surprising, but by and large, Griffin does a good enough job writing and directing here that you’re excited to see what’s next.

Silent Night has a hybrid approach that may not fully work for everyone, but it makes the final product stand out. If you like your genre flicks done with a unique edge, it’ll probably land for you. The COVID-related aspect of it all may be another issue, but provided that’s not too off-putting, it’s well worth checking out.

SCORE: ★★★

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Written by Joey Magidson

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