DVD Review: Silent Retreat (2014, Director, Tricia Lee)

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WARNING! BLOODY SPOILERS HAVE BEEN SPILLED! WARNING!

I discovered this movie a couple of months ago on Upcoming Horror Movies‘ website. There was a Facebook link and that led me to Black Fawn Distribution’s website. I hit the Internet and found some reviews. I wanted to get a sense of whether this flick was any good before I tried for a review copy. That’s my reviewing MO. It cuts down on the amount of “bad movies” I might end up reviewing otherwise. Luckily most reviews were glowing, and even luckier I was able to get a copy to review.

Technically you could categorize this as a “creature feature,” but the creature isn’t the focus, it isn’t the “main bad guy.” It’s analogous to a tornado that whips through the compound this movie is set in while the “good guys” and the “real bad guys” contend with one another, and this “tornado” is as destructive to human nature as any tornado would be. Even though the movie works perfectly as suspense/drama, the creature is teased throughout just to keep you remembering there’s something “off” about the events unfolding, but if you stick with it all the way to the end you’ll realize the “tornado” isn’t the only thing about this tale that’s “off.”

bfd6-silent-retreat-webA perfect segue, I think, into our human bad guys: Dr. Miles Prince (Robert Nolan), and his two sons, Albert (Matthew Romantini) and Paul (Mark Buck). These three are in charge of this “rehabilitation compound” out in the middle of the Canadian forest that caters solely to chicks. All these chicks have gotten in trouble with the law to some extent and have been shipped off here to make them “better.” A good way to aptly describe these three is woman haters, plain and simple.

There rules for anyone being sentenced to their compound is not talking to them or any of the other girls, no making eye contact with them or any of the other girls, no physical contact with them or any of the other girls. There’s no TV, no Internet, no music allowed. You get three strikes; on the second strike you’re shipped back to civilization and to jail. Third strike isn’t explained because all hell breaks loose after strike two for our main characters.

The compound is these small cabins; looks to be one per person. The Doc and his sons only take on 5-7 girls at a time. When night comes one of the sons (they take turns) goes around with a flashlight and peers into the cabins to make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be.

What does rehab look like? Once a day the chicks are taken into this room where they are forced to meditate while listening to this tape as one of the sons monitors them. You get the sense it’s all bullshit, but there’s something genuinely not right here. Chicks that don’t comply are taken to “the cabin,” and when they return they behave like a Stepford Wife, a term even one of the main characters uses.

bfd6-silent-retreat-webSpeaking of our other main characters (another perfect segue), there’s Janey (Chelsea Jenish) and Alexis (Sofia Banzhaf). There are other chicks they somewhat interact with but none of them are named. There’s one who I thought was going to be Janey’s friend, but she was defiant to the point where they took her to the cabin and she got “rehabbed.” After that she was pretty much “one of them,” till the end. Janey is fairly defiant too, speaking and getting reprimanded. Oh, and if you’re caught speaking during lunch or supper, you’re not allowed to eat. This happens to Janey too.

At one point she’s had a enough and tries to escape, taking a long walk down the only road in and out of this place but one of the sons comes and gets her. The prologue gives you a nice twisted sense of how bad this place is and of the creature. All you see in that scene is a chick with her arms tied behind her back and this leash padlocked around her neck and to a nearby tree. She’s pleading to be let go, but something non-human comes and gets her instead. The creature is hinted at a couple more times, one in John Carpenter fashion where it rushes past the camera so close in the foreground I had flashbacks to The Thing (1982) and In The Mouth Of Madness (1995). You get the sense it’s at least humanoid, but were those spikes sticking out of it’s back?

Back to the night she’s trying to escape, the moment one of the sons drives down and demands she get in the car, you hear some weird vocalizations coming from the deep, dark woods. Yeah, it’s clear the kid knows what’s making it.

Alexis is the one that steps up to befriend Janey, but to get that opportunity to actually use her voice to speak to her, she peppers lunch with something that gives everyone cramps and probably diarrhea. Alexis motions to Janey to not eat her food when everyone starts vacating the cafeteria like it’s on fire. She estimates they got about 20-minutes. They head down to the lake and this is where we get to know both girls, Alexis reveals she’s a newbie(?) too.

The turning point in the movie comes when Janey has struck out again and she’s been told she’ll be shipped back to jail in the morning, and is taken away to her cabin where one of the sons stands guard. If things felt like they were mounting towards something this is the moment. Alexis breaks Janey out but not before seriously coldcocking the kid keeping watch. I mean out like a fucking light. No going back now. Whether both girls know it or not they are spot welded to their decision of escape and whatever ramifications that might mean if they don’t succeed. At this point I don’t think not succeeding is even an option anymore.

Speaking of what those ramifications may look like, well, for one a lot like a humanoid bat-creature (sans wings) that hates loud noises. If it hears any it goes in search of the source to put an end to it, and, two, we’ve already met them—three blatantly psychopathic humans! Okay, now I’m treading more heavily into spoiler territory. I’m torn between spilling and saying nothing at all. Is there a middle ground? There might be. Hints? Cryptic hints? Let’s see how that goes.

While watching this movie I kept thinking to myself there’s no fuckin’ way this rehab thing is legit. No, it’s not. What is it really? A business. What kind? I won’t say. I will hint that republicans and tea-baggers (is there really any difference these days) would like this business. “Rehab” didn’t work on Janey or even Alexis. What’s “rehab?” Better you should see for yourself. But, yeah, that’s just as a fucked up revelation as Doc’s knowledge of the creature and what it does for him. This has been going on for a better part of a decade. Keep that in mind as well when you watch it.

This flick was surprisingly bloody with most of the gore coming in at the final act in creature form as it tried and succeeded most times in tearing everyone apart. The chick looking out the door walks right into a swinging claw and gets slashed right across the face. She lives though and not as badly wounded as first thought, but her ultimate demise had me pissed. Pissed at the Doc. Yet another good segue… the stabbing going on in this movie really stood out. Not sure why. Upon a second watch last night, as I took in the commentary, there really isn’t a lot, but what there is was just vicious. And some unexpected.

Comeuppance in these flicks is always nice to watch and Janey gets to that point after a particular sad mercy kill she has to engage in. I’m sure after she was thinking, ‘Fuck this shit!” Yeah, would have been cool if she muttered it to herself but, hey, we can’t have everything. She makes her own makeshift blade and actually goes after the Doc and his sons in the café.

Okay, I should stop talking now. I can see I’ve gone way beyond cryptic hints, but if you’ve read any of my other reviews you would have seen this coming.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 2.35:1(?) widescreen—English 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo, English 5.1, Dolby Digital Surround—No subtitles.

There’s no specifics on the back of the DVD case as to what aspect ratio this movie is in nor any indication on IMDB, but to my eyes it’s somewhere around 2.35:1 and looks very good. Cinematography overall is really good in this flick. I didn’t have a problem with any of the audio either.

Extra Features:

  • Audio commentary with director Tricia Lee and writer Corey Brown
  • Behind The Scenes Featurette (6:10)
  • Trailer

One of the most interesting things I gleaned from the trailer was that Lee states she actually attended a meditation retreat that had rules very similar to the Rehab in the movie. No talking, no making eye contact, etc., and this is what gave her the idea for this movie. And since the creature reminded me so much of Neil Marshall’s The Decent (2005), I also learned that movie was also an inspiration. This would also explain the presence of the “mercy killing” too.

The Behind-The-Scenes featurette is exactly that. No interviews, just some nice segments of the cast and crew shooting the movie and photos taken on the set.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Good plot, good acting, Chelsea Jenish makes an excellent “final girl,” and I mean that in every sense of the word; Despite Lee conveying that he’s actually a really nice guy, Robert Nolan makes a really good hate-able psycho; the creature was initially a bit of a disappointment, but as the flick went on the design and execution grew on me and now seemed appropriate for this particular flick.

This film has not hit US shores yet. It’s a Canadian-lensed movie that came out on DVD in Canada last September. Canadian company, Black Fawn Distribution, is where you’ll have to buy it, if you’re interested in seeing it. There are no Amazon CA listings for it at all.

DVD COVER

DVD COVER

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