Once upon a time, when the online streaming industry was still in its infantile steps, Netflix became a sort of pioneer, establishing a formidable, niche, respect worthy image of itself in the process. A company, which through its representations of more socially aware, progressive, un-formulaic content, attracted a thriving viewer base and rampantly seeped into popular culture (‘Netflix and chill’, anyone?), however, has since sold its proverbial soul to the devil. Going by the streaming giant’s recent productions, it is really hard to differentiate the company from the very ethics it initially stood against. A perfect example of the constantly deteriorating OTT media services provider is the new post apocalyptic horror film, ‘The Silence’. Directed by John R. Leonetti, ‘The Silence’ is a film which falls dismally flat on all counts of originality and artistic intent, serving as nothing but a low rent, shoddy imitation of ‘A Quiet Place’. Working in the same ballpark of the earlier, successful ‘Bird Box’, it can be seen as a piggyback money making scheme by Netflix to work with contemporary audience-friendly content.
The plot of the movie is a formulaic, straightforward, tried and tested comic book tale almost bordering on hilarity. Initial premise of the plot structure is laid when a cave research team unearths an unknown species of a Pterosaur like creature, known as “Vesps”, from a 1000-feet deep mine. Quite honestly, what follows is nothing more than the synopsis released by Netflix, summarized as “When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey, 16-year-old Ally Andrews (played by Kiernan Shipka), who lost her hearing at 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven. But they discover a sinister cult who are eager to exploit Ally’s heightened senses.”
A detailed look at the plot essentially plays out as the aforementioned summary. Ally is a 16-year-old young adult who lost her hearing at 13 in a car accident when her grandparents died. She lives with her parents Hugh (Stanley Tucci) and Kelly (Miranda Otto) Andrews, her maternal grandmother Lynn (Kate Trotter), who has terminal lung cancer, her brother Jude, and a pet dog. As the news of the outbreak spreads, the US government declares an emergency and asks people to remain indoors and stay quiet. Ally suggests they leave the city and head to the country side, which is likely to be quieter. Hugh’s childhood friend Glenn (John Corbett) joins them and brings his guns. The group drives until they hit massive traffic jam, blocking all the interstates with people trying to flee the cities. At this point, Glenn decides to go off road.
Driving through the countryside at high speeds, Glenn’s car is hit by a herd of fleeing deer and tumbles down an embankment. He survives the fall but is trapped in his car. When Hugh and Kelly are unsuccessful in freeing Glen, he accepts his fate and asks Hugh to leave with his family. As the Andrews family return to their car, their pet dog starts to bark, attracting the attention of the Vesps. To this, Glenn fires his gun attracting more Vesps in the process. Hugh leads his family on foot seeing Glen’s car on fire. Struggling to keep up due to her lung cancer, Lynn constantly coughs putting the family in added danger. They soon take refuge in a house Jude finds in the countryside and heads towards it only to find a 10 feet fence with a locked gate around the property.
Upon arriving at the house, the family accidentally alert the owner who, unaware of the situation, starts to speak, resulting in the Vesps to kill her. If this cat and mouse tale wasn’t getting monotonous enough, the film soon sees the involvement of religious zealots who plan to abduct Ally. Amidst all this crisis Ally still finds time to contact and flirt with her boyfriend Rob, who has also been attacked by Vesps. He informs Ally of his plan to escape to the quieter countryside. This is when the film starts bordering on the hilarious and becomes almost unwatchable.
Like other screenplays which are heading nowhere, ‘The Silence’ also sees a random cessation than a gradual conclusion. A cut to several weeks later sees the remaining Andrews family trekking America and eventually making it to the refuge. Later, Ally has found Rob and they hunt down Vesps with arrows. Ally wonders whether the Vesps will adapt to the cold, or will humans adapt to a silent lifestyle, like she did when she lost her hearing. Understandably, it’s really difficult to see this film with a straight face, let alone appreciating it. Therefore, in the forthcoming list, my attempt has been to single out more nuanced, and praiseworthy productions in the same space with special attention being diverted to the genre of post-apocalyptic horror thrillers. Here’s the list of best movies similar to ‘The Silence’ that are our recommendations. You can watch several of these movies like ‘The Silence’ on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Snowpiercer (2013)
Marking the first entry on this list is the 2013 English language South Korean Czech science fiction action film ‘Snowpiercer’, based on the French graphic novel ‘Le Transpercenegie’ by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean Marc Rochette. Co-written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, the film stars Chris Evans, Song Kan-ho, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ocatvia Spencer, Go Ah-sung, John Hurt and Ed Harris. The movie takes place aboard the Snowpiercer train, operating on a globe spanning track, carrying the last remnants of humanity after an attempt at climate engineering to stop global warming has unintentionally created a new Snowball Earth. Starring as Curtis Everett, a member of the lower class tail section passengers, Evans leads a revolution against the elite in the front of the train. Following its release, ‘Snowpiercer’ received widespread critical acclaim and has sprouted up many film critics’ top ten film lists of 2014.
9. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Owing to the unintentional humor in the screenplay of ‘The Silence’, I thought it’d be a good idea to add a small dosage of similar hilarity onto the list. Director Edgar Wright’s take on the apocalyptic zombie uprising genre leaves the audiences in splits as the unambitious electronics store salesman Shaun, caught amidst all the chaos, tries to do the best he can of the situation. Serving as the first instalment in director Wright and writer Pegg’s ‘Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy’, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ is followed by 2007’s ‘Hot Fuzz’ and 2013’s ‘The World’s End’. Upon its release, the film was received well by the critics, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw saying ” it boasts a script crammed with real gags” and is “pacily directed and nicely acted.” The film was placed sixth in Empire’s top one hundred British movies list.
8. Jurassic Park (1993)
Well if this isn’t the original dinosaur movie, I don’t know what is. Directed by the one and only Steven Spielberg, ‘Jurassic Park’ marks the first instalment of the massive, subsequent movie franchise it spawned. Set in the fictional island of Isla Nublar, located off Central America’s Pacific Coast near Costa Rica, the film follows billionaire philanthropist John Hammond and a small team of genetic scientists as they re-create the eponymous wildlife park of de-extinct dinosaurs. Following an industrial sabotage which leads to a catastrophic shutdown of the park’s power facilities and security precautions, a small group of visitors, and Hammond’s grandchildren struggle to survive and escape the perilous island.
Winning a sum total of 20 awards upon its release, the film has since gone on to achieve legendary status in the world of cinema due to its usage of unprecedented computer-generated imagery and animatronic visual effects. In 2018, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
7. The Terminator (1984)
Shame on you if you haven’t watched this already! Path-breaking in its conceptualization and visual narrative, ‘The Terminator’ is a legendary example of science fiction in films, and skyrocketed director James Cameron’s career into the Hollywood elite. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator, a cyborg assassin sent back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton), whose son will one day become a savior against machines in a post-apocalyptic future. It was a massive block office success and received simultaneous critical acclaim during its time of release. Its overwhelming success led to a franchise with four sequels, a television series, comic books, novels and video games. In 2008, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
6. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Well, this is the only wildcard entry to this list. While it is admittedly true that there is absolutely zilch similarity between ‘Dr Strangelove’ and the Netflix disaster ‘The Silence’, on the surface, both these films are seen flirting with the idea of a post-apocalyptic world. Further, both these films are seen searching for a solution as to how humankind can adapt to its new reality till the very end.
Co-written, produced and directed by the master American filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, ‘Dr Strangelove’ is a political satire black comedy on the Cold War, a period when an imminent nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States has elevated tension across the world. The story concerns an unhinged, delusional United States Air Force general who orders a first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Starring Peter Sellers in three separate roles, the rest of the hilarious plot follows the President of the United States, his advisers, the Joint Chiefs of staff, and Royal Air Force Officer as they try to recall the bombers to prevent a nuclear apocalypse. The film was listed at number three on AFI’s ‘100 Years…. 100 Laughs’ list.
5. 28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Academy Award Winner Danny Boyle, ’28 Days Later’ is a British post-apocalyptic horror film starring Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns abd Christopher Eccleston. The plot follows the breakdown of society following the accidental release of a highly contagious virus and focuses on the struggle of four survivors trying to cope with the destruction of the life they once knew. Often credited by film critics as a film which reinvigorated the zombie genre of horror film, the movie has since spawned a 2007 sequel named ’28 Weeks Later’, a graphic novel titled ’28 Days Later: The Aftermath’, and a 2009 comic book series titled ’28 Days Later’. A poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics from Time Out magazine ranked it as the 97th best British film of all time.
4. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Inspired by Chris Marker’s 1962 short film ‘La Jetee’, ’12 Monkeys’ is an American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Terry Gilliam. The plot follows James Cole (played by Bruce Willis), a prisoner living in a subterranean compound beneath the ruins of Philadelphia in a post-apocalyptic world. He is sent back in time by a group of scientists to prevent the outbreak of a deadly virus which will lead to the eventual extinction of the human race.
’12 Monkeys’ was released to critical praise and grossed 168 million dollars worldwide. Brad Pitt received an Academy Award nomination for the Best Supporting Actor for his on-point portrayal of the eccentric Jeffrey Goines. Pulitzer prize winning film critic Roger Ebert found the film’s depiction of the future similar to ‘Blade Runner’. “The film is a celebration of madness and doom, with a hero who tries to prevail against the chaos of his condition, and is inadequate”, Ebert wrote.
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3. Planet of the Apes (1968)
‘Planet of the Apes’ is an American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner from a screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Sterling loosely based on the 1963 French novel ‘La Planete des Singes’ by Pierre Boulle. Starring Charles Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly, and Linda Harrison, the film tells the story of an astronaut crew who crash lands on a strange planet in the distant future. Although the planet appears desolate at first, the surviving crew members soon stumble upon a society in which apes have evolved into human like intelligence and speech, assuming the role of the dominant species. Groundbreaking for its prosthetic makeup techniques by artist John Chambers, the film was a huge commercial and critical success, launching a film franchise including four sequels, a short-lived television show, animated series, comic books, and other various merchandising products.
2. Children of Men (2006)
Before Alfonso Cuaron was making empathetic, multiple award winning odes to domestic help workers worldwide, he wrote and directed dystopian thriller films such as ‘Children of Men’. Shot by cinematographer extraordinaire, and Cuaron’s dear friend and countryman Emmanuel Lubezki, ‘Children of Men’ is a visually stunning film which takes place in the year 2027, when two decades of human infertility have left society on the brink of collapse. Illegal immigrants seek refuge in the United Kingdom, where the last functioning government imposes oppressive immigration laws on the refugees. Though a commercial failure due to its experimental and nuanced subject matter, the film was lauded by critics for its achievements in screenwriting, cinematography, art direction, and innovative single shot action sequences. In 2016, it was voted 13th among 100 films considered to be the best of the 21st century by 117 film critics from around the world.
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1. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Topping the list is the recent dystopian classic, the “Citizen Kane of gut- bucket Australian exploitation cinema”, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, co-written, produced and directed by George Miller. Marking the fourth instalment of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise, this film is set in the post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where petrol and water are scare commodities. It follows Max Rockatansky (Toma Hardy), who joins forces with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) to flee from cult leader Immortan Joe and his army in an armored tanker truck, leading to a lengthy road battle.
A gripping screenplay, and masterfully choreographed action, clubbed with power packed performances by its lead cast make the film a milestone production in the genre of dystopian, post-apocalyptic cinema. Writing for the Guardian and awarding the film four out of five stars, Peter Bradshaw wrote, “Extravagantly deranged, ear-splittingly cacophonous, and entirely over the top, George Miller has revived his Mad Max punk-western franchise as a bizarre convoy chase action thriller in the post-apocalyptic desert.”
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