In horror movie, Speak No Evil, Danish couple Bjørn and Louise are on holiday with their young daughter Agnes in Tuscany, when they meet Dutch couple, Patrick and Karin. Patrick and Karin are holidaying with their young son Abel, and after a bit of conversation and a few drinks, both couples seem to hit it off, and spend the remainder of their time getting to know one another.
A few months later, after both couples have returned home, Bjørn and Louise receive a postcard from Patrick and Karin, with an invite to travel to Holland to spend a weekend at their home. After a little bit of consideration, Bjørn and Louise accept the invitation and soon set off with Agnes.
Upon arrival, the family are greeted warmly by Patrick and Karin, who open up their home and provide good hospitality. At first, everything seems perfectly fine, and both couples look forward to spending the next few days together.
But over the course of the weekend, Patrick and Karin begin to demonstrate some unusual behaviour, which makes Bjørn and Louise feel very uncomfortable. Is this just a slight misunderstanding and an issue with overstepping boundaries, or is something more sinister in play?
Directed and co-written by Christian Tafdrup, Speak No Evil stars Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja Van Huêt, and Karina Smulders. The movie is available to stream on Shudder from today, and is predominantly an English language horror film, but with some moments of Dutch and Danish.
This is a slow-burning tale, but one which is a tense affair, built around an uncomfortable atmosphere. The central premise is about two couples spending time together, and discovering they are not as alike as they initially thought.
For the one couple – Bjørn and Louise – this is an increasingly troubling and problematic situation, which continues to get worse the longer they are with their new ‘friends’. Their counterparts, Patrick and Karin, demonstrate a great deal of antisocial behaviour, which becomes very difficult to overlook.
However, where this film is smart, is in the way it presents this antisocial behaviour. Rather than being one huge incident which might be enough to cause Bjørn and Louise to walk away, it begins as a series of mini-irritations, which can be initially chalked up to cultural or social differences.
These instances of anti-social behaviour then increase over time; but with Bjørn and Louise trying to stick to social norms of politeness, they become conflicted on how to handle it. Do they speak up and potentially create an embarrassing situation, or is it easier to say nothing and keep the peace for the weekend?
Sure, they do eventually speak their mind, but with Patrick and Karin maintaining the position that it is merely a ‘difference of opinion’ in play, it becomes difficult to argue with them. Of course, as a member of the audience it is easy for us to see this is not about a difference of opinion, rather it is a clear case of Patrick and Karin simply being bad people.
But we live in an age in which people go on television, on radio, and on the internet, and openly tell lies every day. We know it is happening, we know they shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it, and yet we somehow can’t seem to do anything about it.
And that’s why I like Speak No Evil so very, very much. Because this film is not only a great little horror movie, which had me gripped from start to finish, but it is also one which feels extremely relevant right now.
Sure, this might be a movie about a weird-ass couple who are clearly being arseholes to a sweet-natured family, but it feels as if this film is about so much more. Whether intentional or not, Speak No Evil taps into a wider narrative, which is reflective of the times we live in, passing commentary on what we as individuals are willing to accept, even if we know it is wrong.
In fact, there is a very important line in the movie, where Bjørn asks why his hosts are doing what they do, which really sums things up perfectly. The answer is very short, and very simple, but provides an explanation as to why Bjørn and Louise are in the mess they find themselves in, and perhaps why we as a society are also encountering problems right now.
But taking things back a step, to move away from the social and political commentary, Speak No Evil is a ruddy good horror irrespective of what it may or may not be trying to say. Director Christian Tafdrup has a great handle on this movie, and knows just how to inject suspense and tension at exactly the right moments, to deliver an effective picture.
Tafdrup knows how to set the mood just right, to ensure this film knows when to draw the audience in, and when to terrify them. It features a haunting ending (no spoilers here), and it serves up one or two creepy moments along the way.
Speak No Evil is a horror film which fires on all cylinders and doesn’t put a foot wrong. It delivers the right combination of story and atmosphere, and I must say it impressed me.
We’ve not reached Halloween yet, but if you’re looking for a horror film to ease you into the spooky season, then be sure to check out Speak No Evil. It is deliciously dark, at times very unnerving, and always interesting.
It is clear from the opening moments that this is going to be a solid movie, and it never falls short. Speak No Evil may move slowly at times, but it knows what it is doing every step of the way to ensure there is a satisfying pay-off.
Shudder has served up some good movies in recent times (this month’s Who Invited Them is a prime example), but Speak No Evil goes above ‘good’, and moves into excellent territory. This is a great film, and one to seek out.
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