“Speak No Evil” – Movie Review

Is there anything more awkward or uncomfortable than staying with strangers and realizing just how strange they are?  Shudder’s latest original film Speak No Evil taps into that fear and takes it to a genuinely disturbing place.  A co-production of Denmark and the Netherlands, Speak No Evil slow burns its way to a grisly final act.

Vacation From Hell
All begins great as Danish couple Bjørn and Louise vacation with their daughter Agnes and they befriend a seemingly charming Dutch couple Patrick and Karin.  They have a son of their own, and the two families hit it off right from the start, with Patrick and Karin insisting that Bjørn, Louise, and Agnes come stay with them at their home in the Netherlands.

Just because you got along hanging out in public on vacation, doesn’t mean you should necessarily stay in that person’s house…

Soon enough, the Danish family takes up the Dutch couples’ offer and even though they don’t know each other too well at this point, they decide to stay in their home.  Almost immediately, Patrick and Karin display odd and unsettling behavior, initially beginning as just awkward, but getting more and more frightening as time goes on.

Very Slow Burn (Minor Spoilers)
Speak No Evil is certainly well-written and well-acted, but for those expecting the film to go full horror in the first hour, you may be left waiting for a while.  At risk of sounding cliché, the best way to describe the film would be suspenseful.  You watch Bjørn and Louise observe a myriad of red flags and the longer they go without doing anything about them, the more frustrated you get and anxious you are to see where this is all leading.

Fedja van Huêt and Karina Smulders (who are married in real life) are both amazing at being very creepy, but always somehow having an explanation for what they’re doing.

However, this complaint about the film taking too long to go full horror might just be a modern interpretation.  After all, classics of old like Rosemary’s Baby famously built up tension and the final payoff was only the last few minutes.  So in that regard, Speak No Evil may be paying homage to an older style and older pacing of the genre.

Volatile Final Act (Major Spoilers)
After nearly an hour of watching the incredibly too polite Danish couple tiptoe their way around feeling awkward, the sinister Dutch couple make their intentions known and the results are legitimately grisly.  Without getting to too much detail, it involves harm against children, and an incredibly bleak and raw look at violence against people who truly don’t deserve it.

Sinister secrets are discovered…

It’s tempting to criticize Bjørn and Louise for overlooking so many red flags.  It’s even more tempting to criticize them for making absolutely no effort to fight back whatsoever, even when their lives are in danger.  Bjørn even sobbingly pleads with Patrick and Karin, “Why are you doing this?”  And Patrick’s chilling response is, “Because you let us.”

There’s no way for anyone to know how they would act in a life or death situation like that if you’ve never experienced it.  And while we love to talk about fight or flight, there’s a commonly overlooked third option, freeze.  In a way, the ill-fated Danish couple represent any ordinary person put into that situation, almost leading to a metaphor of how evil continues to thrive because the ordinary are too afraid to stop it.

If you don’t mind slow burns, Speak No Evil makes for an interesting watch that is certain to leave you feeling disturbed and uncomfortable by the end!

What did you think of Speak No Evil?  Let us know in the comments!

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