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Film Review: Silent Retreat (2016)

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SYNOPSIS:

Six members of a media company go on a weekend business retreat at an isolated lodge in the woods. When one of the members goes missing, they discover that the lodge was formerly a private mental institution that had been shut down after allegations of devious misconduct. One by one, they fall victim to the dark secrets buried at the lodge.

REVIEW:

A group of six employees at a media company decide to spend a weekend in a cabin retreat.  While out in the woods, people go missing, people die, and the past resurfaces in the present.  Silent Retreat is a trope filled horror flick that isn’t all bad but isn’t all good either.

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Silent Retreat was released in early 2016 and barely made a whimper among audiences.  Zacry Stabard (Donny Boaz) is your average, albeit a little better than average looking, media employee.  He travels with coworker Meigan De Foresi (Rebecca Summers) to a remote cabin in the woods that is owned by the grandfather of another coworker, Rita Pulis (Trista Robinson).  Their boss Dale Re (Danilo Di Julio) thought it would be a good team building weekend to bring all of them out into an isolated location to focus on making their work even better than before.  Also along for the trip are funny man Tedi Calcan (Eli Bildner), sexually charged Lira Tuls (Devon Ogden), and her man of the weekend Joel Sau (Landon Ashworth).  When Rita goes missing during the first day of the trip, the group try to find her only to find worse things happening in the woods.

A lot of tropes that horror fans recognize are present in Silent Retreat.  The movie doesn’t shy away from hitting notes that have been used many times before.  They don’t hurt the movie, however.  The movie isn’t simply using the tropes to use the tropes.  They are all a part of the story in a natural way.  The cabin having been built on the same location as an asylum is the crux of the story.  The artifacts of that location being found fit in with that.  The creepy caretaker watching the people in the cabin makes sense as the backstory of the location is revealed.  Characters walking into another cabin without waiting for the door to be answered makes sense because that other cabin belongs to Rita’s grandfather.  Though all of the tropes are obvious, they make sense in the context of Silent Retreat.  They are noticeable but they do not hurt the story that is being told.

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Something noticeable that does hurt the movie is the collection of reveals toward the end.  Silent Retreat is a movie that isn’t afraid to try to twist and turn so that the audience goes for a roller coaster ride rather than a creepy experience.  Some of the turns work well while others do not.  The main problem with all of the twisty turny stuff is that it muddles up the resolution of the movie, and makes some of the earlier events messier than they needed to be.  It takes what could have been a fairly straight forward story, and Frankenstein monsters it into a different story that doesn’t make complete sense.  Audiences want coherent stories.  This was incoherent by the end.  How could some of the stuff have even happened the way it did?

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Some of the surprising moments really worked, however, and a lot of the foreshadowing in the earlier moments of the movie paid off later on in satisfying ways.  There was a clear sense that the writers knew what they were doing, though in some instances it didn’t translate well for a viewing experience.  The setup to certain climactic events was sprinkled throughout the initial half hour of the movie as we got to know the characters involved in the events.  I guess that what I’m getting at here is that the first half hour was a solid foundation for the movie to come, though the back half was somewhat of a letdown.

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Silent Retreat is not a bad movie.  It is an easily digestible and semi-entertaining horror movie.  It has enough twists and turns to make it feel like a ride, though that takes a little bit out of the atmosphere of the movie.  The acting is solid, the surprises work for the most part, and the initial half hour is solid character building.  Even with the weaknesses of the final third, it is still an okay movie that would be good background noise during a party.  There’s nothing wrong with that.

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