Starring: April Hartman, Tom Zembrod, Jessica Dawn Willis
Director: Mitch McLeod
Running Time: 115 mins
Silhouette is an American film about a married couple who, after the death of their young daughter, move to a secluded neighbourhood to start their life anew, but things rapidly take a turn for the worse.
The development of the horror genre in recent years to encompass real, dark dramatic themes beyond the more superficial, scare-oriented level of films in the past is an absolute marvel, and there are times in Silhouette where that trend is replicated in both riveting and striking fashion. However, while the film impresses in bursts with its dramatic depth, it’s actually the horror side of things that proves most striking here, and that drama actually tails off quite considerably over the course of the second half, taking away from the potently unsettling atmosphere expertly crafted from the beginning.
Let’s start on the bright side first, though, with the fact that Silhouette is a bold and intelligent horror movie. There is tension and a bit of a scare factor to it, but this isn’t a dull, jumpscare-reliant horror by any means. In that, it blends some intriguing focus on the devastating effects of grief and loss with a powerfully unsettling atmosphere, as the film kicks into life in really striking fashion right from the very first scene.
It’s not a fast-paced movie, but what it does have is that eerie, often overbearingly unnerving vibe to it to keep you really engrossed, and for the best part of an hour, Silhouette had me on tenterhooks with that side of the story.
From a booming musical score to really striking cinematography, and from brilliantly effective directing by Mitch McLeod to an exceptional central performance from April Hartman, there really is a lot about the first half of Silhouette that makes for a captivating watch, cleverly poising the story on the edge between slow, intricate psychological drama and a descent into full-blown horror thrills.
In that, you could say that it’s a little reminiscent of Darren Aronofsky’s stunning Mother!, with a story and atmosphere that blurs the lines between what you think to be real and what not, as well as a central performance that’s overflowing with emotional depth, with April Hartman’s clearly devastated character making for a riveting lead right the way through the first half of the movie.
But above Mother!, the closest comparison for Silhouette would have to be Ari Aster’s Hereditary, a film that also tells of the horrifying effects of grief for a mother after losing her daughter, albeit with very different results.
While Hereditary is acclaimed by many, it’s a film that never sat too well with me, and while its dramatic depth is astonishing at times, its horror elements are ludicrous and jarring throughout, which is what has always made it a real disappointment in my eyes.
Silhouette, on the other hand, has the opposite issue, with a powerfully unsettling and enthralling horror atmosphere that’s built brilliantly through the course of the first half, but drama that – while initially promising – falls apart in the second half of the movie.
And that’s what ultimately made me come away feeling quite disappointed with Silhouette. I don’t wish to write any spoilers in this review, but it suffices to say that a significant change in focus right in the middle of the movie is what ultimately proves its undoing, as we move away from that brilliantly atmospheric and striking horror side to a frustratingly predictable, slow and often inconsequential dramatic approach.
There are of course moments where the early brilliance pops up through the second half, but its poor dramatic development and often dragging dialogue sequences really take away from the striking charisma and excitement seen earlier, making the final fifty minutes or so of the film a real drag to watch.
Overall, then, there’s a lot to say about Silhouette, a film that’s full of talent and captivating intrigue throughout. Above all, it’s a good horror movie, with a powerfully unsettling atmosphere brought about excellently by director Mitch McLeod, and furthered by an often spellbinding central performance from April Hartman. However, despite intelligent dramatic themes and a strong start, the film’s turn to less horror-oriented drama in the second half is a real shame, and proves a frustrating watch until the end, which is why I ultimately felt rather disappointed coming away from this film, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.9.