The Silence, Explained

2018 was a great one for horror-genre. There were films that not just cashed in on the box office but also received acclaim for their content. For horror films, to achieve both things together is not a common feat. But things have taken a turn for the better as filmmakers are trying to come up with new ideas, never hesitating to experiment, and thus, delivering films like ‘Hereditary and ‘Get Out’. 2018’s ‘A Quiet Place’ is another example of the films that dared to be different. Even if you don’t believe that the concept was exceptionally unique, you can’t argue that the film actually turned out to be about something better, something more than just scary creatures in the wild.

Later in the year, Netflix released ‘Bird Box’. The film followed an eerily similar premise with the difference being the hunting method of the creatures. Instead of making a sound, this time, your death would be sealed by your vision. ‘Bird Box’ was enjoyable, even if it didn’t match the level of ‘A Quiet Place’. This could also be because once a new concept has been introduced, it begins to lose its value over time. After watching the first film, you become biased about the ones that follow, especially when it’s almost perfect. Anyway, looked like people weren’t fed up of the idea just yet, and ‘Bird Box’ performed rather well. One of the reasons that it happened was that it simply was a good film. ‘The Silence’ does not enjoy that advantage.

Netflix’s latest release followed the premise that might as well share the universe with ‘A Quiet Place’. Because of this stark similarity in the concept, ‘The Silence’ faces a lot of pressure from the fans to live up to the expectations of its predecessor. Fair to say, and if you’ve read any reviews, you know that it comes nowhere near to John Krasinski’s brilliant direction-debut. Even I went in with ‘not so high’ expectations. Anyway, this isn’t a review, so I won’t tell you if you should watch this film or not. If you’ve seen it, then go ahead and read this article. But if not, then you should stop here and return only after having watched the film.

SHHHH… SPOILERS AHEAD!

Summary of the Plot

Just in case you’re wondering why Netflix would remake ‘A Quiet Place’ when it has hardly been a year since it was released, you should know that it’s really the matter of timing here. ‘The Silence’ is actually based on a novel by Tim Lebbon. Production had started on the film well before we got to hear about its doppelganger-flick. So, let’s try and not lash out at Netflix for plagiarising an idea.

The protagonist and the narrator of the film is Ally Andrews, played by Kiernan Shipka, a teenage girl who had lost her sense of hearing about three years ago. She had been in a car accident that had claimed her grandparents’ life as well. But Ally is a sharp kid and she quickly adapts to her new situation by learning the sign language and picking up on clues provided by her surrounding to deduce what’s happening around her. In order to communicate with her, her whole family as well as her friends, of which we only get to see one, have learnt the sign language. Give it a few minutes and you’ll realise how important this is going to be for their survival.

By the night, they discover that various places in the country have fallen victim to strange creatures that are ripping everyone apart. Through the viral videos and news broadcasts, the family realises that sound is the enemy now. Since cities never sleep, neither do they go silent, they decide to pack up their bags and head for a quieter place! The story further follows their quest to survive, as they learn new things about the creatures (mostly from the Internet) and meet a worse situation in the form of a cult that tries to recruit them! There is certainly much more content to work with in this film. However, is it enough?

The Vesps and Evolution

Unlike ‘A Quiet Place’, which doesn’t give an explanation of where the creatures actually came from and why they hunt only through sound, ‘The Silence’ starts off by getting this mystery out-of-the-way. Whether or not it works in the favour of the film is not the point of discussion here.

Every creature alive on this Earth right now is because he/she/it survived all the tantrums that Mother Nature threw their way. Evolution is the key when it comes to survival. If you aren’t quick enough to adapt to your surroundings, you should prepare to meet your maker! Unfortunately for the humans in ‘The Silence’, Vesps are not the complacent kind. God knows what happened a million years ago and what trapped these creatures deep underground, but they managed to survive. There are two things not available when you are trapped in such a place- light and sound. The Vesps grew up without them. Because there wasn’t any light for millions of years, the course of their evolution led to the removal of eyes (considering they had them in the first place) from their anatomy. You’d think that the lack of sound should have led to the removal of hearing as well. But all senses don’t work the same way. In case of sound, the less you have, the more perceptible you become about it. This is why the countryside people don’t like cities! Too damn noisy.

In the present day, a team of scientists/excavators managed to find their way to an opening that allowed Vesps an escape from their world. They came rushing out on hearing the sounds made by humans and slaughtered them. (You might want to remember this the next time someone asks you to remain quiet.) Once out of their cave, there was a whole world full of all sorts of noise. The Vesps had gotten so used to the complete silence that this newfound noise was just too irritating for them!

We got to know more about these pterodactyl sort of creatures as the story moved forward. By the end of the film, we also learn that they can’t survive the cold. However, that situation could easily change once they begin to adapt. Another thing that Ally discovers is that they lay eggs inside the people they have already eaten. The reason for that could be anything. The most plausible one is because the corpses supplied the food of the eggs. Talk about recycling!

How to Survive a Vesp Attack

Considering how they can tear a human to shreds, these creatures don’t pose much of threat if you can be smart about it. All you have to do is embrace the vow of silence. Who knows, maybe nirvana could be on the cards due to this! Anyway, your silence will you keep you alive. The next thing you need to do is to find out ways to play the Vesps’ strength for weakness. As they say, the best defence is offence. If you want to survive them, you will need to eradicate this species! (Disclaimer: I might sound like an extremist right now, but trust me, I’m not an intolerant person. This exercise is purely for fictional purposes.)

The advantage you have over Vesps is that they are in your environment, and not the other way around. The only reason they are attacking everyone is that they want the same quiet environment back. Evolution takes time. They have just been introduced to your world, so they won’t be able to adapt so easily. Hence, they will do something different- try to turn your world into theirs. And this is what you can take advantage of. You know they’ll follow noise anywhere. You can use that to set traps, lure them in, as many as you can, and then find a way to kill them. In the film, Hugh is just a normal person. No army veteran, no Sherlock! But even he was smart enough to lure the Vesps right into the woodchipper. What a handy trick!

Our Own Worst Enemies

Humans are very competitive creatures. There is a reason we’ve been able to survive for such a long time. We won’t ever let any other species have an upper hand on us in anything. Take horror for instance. The world is being ripped to pieces by prehistoric creatures, and yet, the one thing that creeped me out was the reverend and his cult. Not two days into the apocalypse, Ally and her family find themselves at crossroads with a man who tries to recruit them to his cult. Just by looking at him, you can feel that there is something deeply disturbing about this man. His hissing and snarling and cut-out tongue only heighten the sense of danger around him. When rebuffed by Hugh and Ally, he follows them to their house and tries to get them to give them Ally, because “the girl is fertile”, whatever that means! I deduce that this has something to do with him, and maybe even his followers, being paedophiles who are thriving on the chaos of the world. They are definitely not subtle about their proceedings, no matter how much they smile. There are many ways to keep yourself silent. Cutting your tongue out should not be one of them. And yet, they did so! And then called themselves the Hushed. Even if you decide to sever your own body part, you don’t get to make that decision for someone else, let alone a child. Still, a young girl has to suffer their cruelty.

What was the motive of this cult? What did they want from Ally? How come they were already there when the world hadn’t even been destroyed completely? And how come good people like Uncle Glenn die but bad people like these survive?

Let’s begin with the formation of the Hushed. When everyone is running for their lives or staying put in their houses in the hopes of living out this mess, the reverend is going around, asking people to join his flock! Often, in the face of death, people turn to religion, or whatever will give them the hope to survive the storm.

If you want to see how these conditions can quickly turn into something religious, or how quickly a cult can form in the face of an apocalypse, you should watch ‘The Mist’. The whole process of it is a scary experience. What we see in ‘The Silence’ is something like that. The reverend has used this end of the world scenario to lure people into following him. But we can see that the cult isn’t too big yet and because most of the people in the world are dead, it’s a safe bet if I say that he couldn’t have recruited too many people after the Vesps began their purge. Hence, we can deduce that the people following him had been following him even before all this started. The way they can kill for him, the way they are ready to kidnap a young girl for him, the fact that they have cut out their damned tongues for him, all this says that the dedication of his followers runs deeper and father in the past.

So, the cult wasn’t something newly formed. It was already there, following some other agenda. Maybe it was one of those pro-apocalypse cults, and by their great luck, the Vesps became the means for the world’s end. If there is one thing that would have boosted their self-confidence and allowed them to act further on their goal, then this is it! Even if the Hushed were something else before this, a group with god knows what shitty schemes, then the current situation would have prodded them to reconsider their goals. Also, such corrupting things often feed off of chaos. And what could be more chaotic than a world screaming for silence!

Moving on, what possibly did they want from Ally? Here’s the thing you need to understand about religious cults- they will always look for a saviour, a messenger for god, salvation for humankind. They will find it in the oddest of places. The reverend found his in Ally. He is the man who had to cut his tongue out in order to survive. He is clearly not a bright person. Could have considered taping his mouth and learning sign language on the go (the Internet was clearly working!), but no, the brain never evolved for them. So, when he saw Hugh and Ally, making intelligent choices to stay alive and using sign language to communicate, this was a sign from God, or whatever entity he believed in.

As I said, he was most probably a paedophile, which explains the presence of the other young girl. No matter what he told his followers about Ally being their salvation or some shit like that, he was actually in it for his sexual satisfaction. The other explanation could be that he really was a delusion being. He really believed that God had sent her, people believe all sorts of nonsense in the name of god!

Would You Rather Fight a Vesp or a Cult?

Having survived whatnot over all these hundreds and thousands of years, the survival mode of human has been upgraded with every step. Whenever we face a threat, the body makes the decision before the mind. This is what keeps us alive. One of the things that are synonymous to survival is self-preservation. If a lion is chasing you, you only have to run faster than the other person. ‘The Silence’ shows us such instance, which further shines a light on the hard choice- humanity and survival. The latter, almost always, wins.

In one of the scenes, which was rather harrowing and could easily serve as a thought experiment for an ethics class, a woman and her baby are made to leave a train when the baby starts to cry. The train is full of a lot that is sitting there in silence, either waiting for rescue or just trying to breathe for as long as they can in that underground tunnel. In any case, the baby threatens their position. She starts to cry. When she won’t shut up, a man takes her away from her mother’s arms and decides to get her out of the train. The mother pleads them not to do so, but in the end, decides to leave with her. At first, the baby stays quiet. But then, it’s a baby, it’ll cry at some point in time. And when it does, the creatures come.

So, what would you have done? Would you have allowed to let a baby die, or would you have let her stay on the train and jeopardised the lives of everyone else? Your humanity will be judged by the number of seconds you took to answer it. What’s your score?

The Hushed is a similar bunch for people, but what makes them more disastrous is that they are actively killing people. Their survival doesn’t depend on it. They’re doing it just because they are effed-up! Who knows if we will be attacked by prehistoric creatures in the near future? But think about people like the reverend, and they do exist in our world. There are cultists who sacrifice people, children. They don’t need an apocalypse to let them have the courage to do bad things to others. They will do it with or without Vesps. And this is what makes them even more dangerous? They are not trying to survive. Their thought experiment is not about ethics. It is about pure evil.

Honestly, I’d rather fight a Vesp!

The Ending

After succeeding to survive both the Vesps and the Hushed, the Andrews family continues north to the Refuge, where Rob had suggested Ally to go. By the looks of it, the family finds their way to the place. However, even if they have found a safe haven, the survival of humanity is still not guaranteed. In fact, the fight has only begun.

The two challengers for the top position on the food chain will have to face harsh competition from each other. For humans, the challenge is to go silent and hone their knowledge and skills against the Vesps. From the last scene, we can deduce that it has already begun. The length of Ally’s hair shows that considerable time has passed by now and the accuracy of her shot proves that she has perfected the art of archery. Humans are already evolving. But then, so are the Vesps. The one that Ally shoots down is actually hovering in a cold place. We can see ice and dead people all around. This means that Vesps adapt fast. This could further become worse for humans if the Vesps continue to evolve like this and grow eyes following their exposure to light!

The only upper hand we would have against them would be lost then. Also, they are breeding fast. As we know, the next generation is a step further in evolution. Hence, further bad news for humans. Now, they not only have to kill the existing Vesps, but also have to not allow any new ones to form. That would definitely be a very, very hard thing to achieve. What do you think then?

What ‘The Silence’ leaves us with is an uncertainty for the future of humans. How it will end depends on your stance as an optimist or a realist.

Read More in Explainers: Osmosis | Triple Frontier | Mirage

Add comment