After a great loss, it’s not easy to feel whole again. When Rayburn Swanson lost his daughter, Gwen, five years ago—thanks in part to his own negligence—his life crumbled. His drinking problem became a permanent drunken haze. He pushed his wife away with sullen brutishness. And he isolated himself on a large stretch of remote, wooded land.
In fact, that isolation was a penitence, in a way. He bought that property and had it declared a wildlife sanctuary. Gwen had hated his hunting, so it seemed only right to give that side of his life up and become a protector of the animals she loved.
He did it for her sake. And day by day as he watched the images from the cameras he positioned in those acres of trees, or went out to turn hunters away, it reminded him of her absence. She became that hole in his life that could never be filled.
Then one day, Ray spotted a different kind of hunter in his sanctuary woods. This man was in full marsh-grass camo gear carrying a club and something called an atlatl: an ancient weapon that could sling spear-like projectiles at more than 100 miles an hour.
What was this man doing? And what could he be hunting in such a getup and with that gear? Was Ray’s slightly booze-blurred eyesight playing tricks on him?
Then, Ray saw the girl: bloodied and barefoot and running for her life. And everything empty and rotten about his own existence was quickly forgotten. All his drunken loneliness and grief was instantly vaporized and replaced with one overpowering thought:
Ray Swanson may not look like a typical hero, but some of his choices certainly fit that bill as he puts his own life at risk to rescue and literally carry a young wounded woman for miles. He also decides to dump out his booze at one point and clean up his life.
A local sheriff named Alice also wades into danger while trying to figure out the murders of some local girls. And she does all she can to help her trouble-prone younger brother. (Both Alice and Ray, however, also make some unlawful and selfish choices that they deem justified, as we’ll see.)
Another local policeman, Officer Blackhawk, also goes above and beyond to help some people in need, including a wounded Ray.
A young female dancer wears a short skirt and skimpy top while pole dancing in a local bar. A young woman’s corpse is found and stripped for police examination. We only see the body from the shoulders up.
Several of the “hunter’s” post-mortem victims have long healed-over scars on their throats, indicating to police that their voice boxes have been removed while being held in captivity. That proves to be true: We see a drugged young woman lying on a table with the flesh of her throat splayed open in a surgical procedure.
The women being hunted also end up cut and bleeding from their legs, feet, arms and faces during the process of a hunt. We see that blood spattered on the forest floor and left in gory handprints on tree trunks. Elsewhere, we see a woman stabbed in the stomach and left to bleed on the floor.
Large, spear-like arrows thunk into trees near several people’s heads. And Ray has one of the stone-headed projectiles hit him in the upper chest. We watch as he pulls the large arrowhead out of his bare chest. He then sews up the wound and painfully pours alcohol on it. Ray also gets shot in the side by someone with a pistol. Then a doctor pulls up his shirt to examine the bloody wound.
Alice’s brother, Brooks, is badly beaten in a fight. We see the bruises and slightly bloody cuts on his face later. The camera also catches a glimpse of a crisscross of old scars on the young man’s waist when he reaches for something and his T-shirt rides up. We see another man bound to a post, after having been beaten.
A man is badly pummeled by a raging foe, leaving him cut and bloodied. Ray and the hunter struggle in a fight that involves smashed bottles, thumping punches and a set of deer horns used as a slashing weapon. A man gets impaled through the chest and lower torso by large wooden stakes and is left to bleed out. Pistols and shotguns are fired in several scenes. A woman steps on and springs a vicious, sharp-toothed bear trap.
We hear more than 20 f-words and a couple dozen s-words, along with multiple uses of the words “b–ch,” “h—” and “a–hole.” There are crude references to male genitalia. God’s and Jesus’ names are both abused a dozen times total (with God’s name and “d–n” being combined 5 times). Someone makes an offensive hand gesture.
Ray drinks beer and whiskey regularly in his home and at a local bar. Empty bottles litter his tables at home. Alice’s younger brother Brooks is on some sort of medication for his mental health and we see prescription battles when she searches his bathroom. Ray is attacked and knocked unconscious by a hypodermic needle full of drugs. And we’re told of a local thug who deals in illicit drugs and prostitution.
Police break into people’s homes without a warrant.
Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.
We’ve all heard that scriptural reference from the books of Romans and Deuteronomy. But it’s not a declaration we all readily accept. Mankind’s blood runs hot when we feel wronged—it’s not easy to wait for God to deliver the justice we desire.
In fact, Hollywood tells us we don’t have to. It proclaims, in two-hour cinematic bites, that a gory-but-righteous retribution is sweet. The Silencing is just such a bite, giving a solemn nod to the idea of lawless, deadly vengeance.
This pic has well-acted moments and a dark polish, but it’s bloody, profane, boozy and grim. And no matter how cathartic murderous revenge may feel in the movie moment, it’s still a bitter pill if you swallow it.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.