Silent Night 2021 is horrifyingly-depressing Christmas black comedy film, which is a joy to experience, writes KATE INGLEBY-PARYLO
TITLE: Silent Night
YEAR RELEASED: 2021
DIRECTOR: Camille Griffin
CAST: Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Roman Griffin Davis
Review of Silent Night 2021
Gearing up for another annual Christmas celebration at their country estate, Nell and Simon prepare to welcome their former school friends as they arrive for some festive fun. This Christmas, however, it’s not just the usual seasonal drama, or managing the children, the couple must face, but the incoming doom set to kill everyone. Conflict soon arises over clashing personalities and whether they should take the exit pill, a painless suicide pill provided by the government.
Feature film debut from writer-director Camille Griffin, Silent Night 2021 is a film which transcends genres, fitting into an elite exclusive group of genre-hybrid films that refuse to be labelled or restricted by audience expectations. Combining horror, drama, and comedy, Silent Night creates an anxiety including horror, a beyond-tragic drama, and a bust-a-gut comedy. Each character gets to shine as they seemingly compete to be the most unlikeable.
With the difficult task of maintaining an uneven tone, the film excels at creating its own rhythm. Just as a scene is about to become too bleak, it is elevated with comedy, but grounded in emotion.
For instance, when the group is gathered for dinner, they are instructed to only take one roast potato as they have an insufficient amount. One of the adults asks why can’t the children only have half each since they are smaller. Soon a heavy and grim discussion begins in regard to the cause of their impending doom. As the characters are arguing, creating an emotional heaviness to the scene, the same adult steals some roast potatoes off the plates of the children as they are distracted.
The standard of acting is high throughout with stand-out performances from Kiera Knightly, Roman Griffin Davis and Sope Dirisu. The film is also accompanied by a delightful soundtrack which blends seamlessly with the tonal demands of the film.
Some may argue the film isn’t horror, which I would have almost agreed with prior to 2020. Post-COVID, however, disaster and apocalyptic films don’t feel quite as fun as they once did. Silent Night 2021 crosses the lines of genre, dipping into comedy, drama and horror as it pleases.
It may not be complete horror through and through, but its apocalyptic themes make it pretty horrific. If after your first viewing, you’re not left with a sudden growing sense of dread and anxiety, especially given the current Russia-Ukraine crisis, you may want to start paying attention.
Whilst the rest of the film sweeps past at a gracious speed, the end begins to linger as the characters must confront taking their exit pills or being left to their fate. Some of the whining from the characters become tiresome as they agonise over the Coca-Cola being too warm to drink. Despite this, these scenes seem to present some truths about the characters and people in general.
Like with parenting, the characters try desperately to control the little things, and can hardly bring themselves to look at the big things they cannot. Throughout the film, each character must confront their own mortality as well as realise that they cannot always protect their children regardless of how hard they try.
Audience and critical reception are mixed with some viewers praising the film for its top-tier acting, whilst others demonise the inclusion of dead children and possible links to COVID-19. Camille Griffin has maintained that the film is not an analogy for COVID-19, with the script being conceived in December 2018, and production wrapped in March 2020.
Others were put off by the unlikeable characters. I think this plays to the strengths of the film as it helps to maintain a fine line between comedic, depressing, and distressing. If the characters were perfectly crafted victims, then I anticipate the depressing moments of the film would hit deeper, making it difficult to reach any comedic heights and creating a painfully dreary film.
Part of the comedy is watching the clash of these neurotic, blunt and sometimes selfish personalities as they try to reckon with the end of the world and still try to act in the best interest of their children. All while being scared, nervous wrecks themselves.
Within a sea of castrated, comedic, family Christmas films, being pumped out faster than the UK currently changes Prime Minister, Silent Night 2021 is a refreshing spice of variety in an otherwise bland Christmas horror wasteland. Silent Night 2021 has everything that makes Christmas Christmas, with drunken confessions, seasonal melodrama and neurotic personalities; this is one horrifyingly depressing Christmas film which is a joy to experience again and again.
For such a great British film, it’s a shame that, as of writing, the film doesn’t have a physical UK release but a German DVD and Blu-ray release (which does include English). Currently, the film can also be found on streaming sites such as Amazon Prime and YouTube for a price.
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