The Silencing is a 2019 film about a serial killer stalking teenage girls in the backwoods of Alberta, Canada.
8 out of 10 stars. This was panned by Amazon reviewers at IMDB and on Amazon. Wikipedia got the plot entirely wrong. And honestly it never had a chance to really be viewed by the right people. Such a shame because it’s really a very good film.
The film begins with a teenage girl floating down a river wearing a red shirt and blue jeans. She’s obviously dead and appears to have light brown hair. This is also the film’s only plot hole. Who this is is never explained. I’ll get back to that at the end of this review.
Rayburn Swanson is a drunk. He has been for at least five years. Five years ago, he stopped to get a bottle of whiskey with his teenage daughter Gwen in the car. She threatened to walk home if he got a drink. He ignored her and went inside anyway. When he came back out, she was gone. Assuming she walked, he went home. She wasn’t there. And thus began his nightmare when his daughter disappeared from sight. He used to be an avid hunter with pitfalls scattered across his property. Gwen hated that he hunted animals. So after her disappearance, he converted his property, almost 50 square miles, into an animal sanctuary called the Gwen Swanson Wildlife Sanctuary. He put up cameras across the property so he could stop any hunters who trespassed by taking their guns and sending them packing. His dog Thor is trained to look at the camera monitors and bark if he sees anyone. This area is where most of the film takes place.
As the film opens, after the scene of the teenage girl floating down the lake, Sheriff Alice Gustafson gets a radio call that a possible homicide has occurred out at Buck Lake. When she arrives, the coroner is already there. There’s a naked young woman with a scar on her throat and wounds that appear to be from a spear or arrow. She has bright orange hair. They search the woods and find a spear still stuck in a tree and a blood trail that leads back to the girl. So she was hunted by someone. The spear head has MB on it.
Alice gets another call, this time about her brother. She drives to Sawbill Reservation and speaks to Karl Blackhawk, the Sawbill Tribal Police Chief, who has her brother Brooks in custody. Apparently he’d been harassing one of the girls at the local hangout (called the Factory) and Sam Moonblood threw him out. The girl he was harassing was the latest missing girl, Molly. Karl hands over Brooks to her and warns Alice that at some point she won’t be able to protect her brother anymore.
It is then revealed that Alice and Brooks’ parents died so she went off to college and he was put in foster care with a couple who kept him locked in the barn and tortured him. When she came back the damage was already done and her brother’s been in trouble ever since.
Rayburn wakes up and sees the dead girl on the news. So he finds Alice and demands to see the body thinking it might be Gwen. It’s not. He goes home and sees on his cameras that a man in camouflage is hunting in the sanctuary and breaks one of the cameras. So he drives out to that section and yells for the guy to stop hunting because he’s trespassing. He is shot in the shoulder with an arrow (it’s actually a thin spear shot from an atlatl). He runs back to his pickup but it won’t start, so he begins the long walk home and comes across the hunter’s black Ford pickup. He carves an X in the side near the gas cap with his key because the pickup has no plates.
He makes it home, removes the arrow, stitches up his wound, and goes to look at the camera footage to see why the hunter broke his camera. A teenage girl is running through the woods and he’s chasing her. So Ray grabs his shotgun and goes back out to save the girl.
Meanwhile Alice takes the spearhead to a local gun shop run by a guy named Jim and asks him what it is. He tells her it’s a spear shot from an atlatl, a 30,000 year old weapon. He shows her one and how to use it. When used properly it sends a spear 100 mph into a victim. The only person in the area who makes them is Sam Moonblood, because they’re illegal.
Ray finds the girl near death at the lake’s edge. He carries her until it gets dark and very cold. She’s wearing nothing but a thin white nightgown that looks like a hospital gown. He lays her down on the ground and finds a pitfall he used to use for hunting animals. He opens it up and is about to carry her inside when he realizes she’s not there. She clubs him over the head with a thick branch. He explains to her he’s not the one who kidnapped her and tells her if they don’t get in the pitfall, they’ll freeze to death. So she reluctantly gets into the pitfall with him. She can’t speak, but she writes her name in the dirt: MOLLY.
Meanwhile Alice is looking for Sam Moonblood on tribal land. She has no jurisdiction there. She breaks into his home and Karl catches her there. He tells her about Brooks being ID’d as the last guy to see Molly before she disappeared and he was scaring her, so Sam Moonblood threw Brooks out.
The next day, Ray carries Molly through the forest. They reach his house at dusk and the killer is inside his house. Thor is whimpering because someone has locked him in a back room. The killer attacks Ray and knocks him out. Molly picks up the shotgun and shoots at the killer until she runs out of shells, which happens pretty quickly. The killer stabs her with a spear and then Alice arrives. She sees Molly and assumes Ray killed her, but then Ray wakes and tells her the killer is behind her. She turns and sees a man completely covered in camouflage who looks like Cousin It. She points her gun at him then she hears him cracks his knuckles, something Brooks does all the time. So she turns and shoots Ray and tells Brooks to run for it. :0 Wow.
Ray escapes into the woods and she hunts him until she steps in a trap. Ray radios for help and calls for an ambulance to come save Molly. Then he drives to Karl’s place because Karl and his ex-wife Debbie are now dating. In fact, his wife is pregnant with Karl’s kid. Debbie and Karl take him to the reservation and call for Dr. John Boone, the coroner for Echo Falls. He removes the bullet and sews up Ray. As Karl is leaving with Debbie and telling her to get in the car and lock the doors, he sees Brooks walk by. So he follows him and arrests him.
Alice arrives demanding to see Brooks. Karl refuses and tells her he’s going to request an investigation into her conduct for shooting Ray and letting a killer escape because she thought it was Brooks. After she leaves, he questions Brooks who confesses to kidnapping Moonblood and torturing him in the same barn where he was tortured by his foster parents.
Karl calls Alice and she returns. He tells her Ray is refusing to press charges against her and is now claiming the killer shot him. He also tells her Brooks claims he didn’t kill the girls and Karl believes him because at the time Alice shot Ray and let the killer go, Brooks was seen at the Factory. Then they go to find Moonblood. She shows the spearhead to Moonblood and he says it’s not his. The spear is made of pine and he uses only birch. He also never puts his initials on a spearhead. He doesn’t label them in any way. The weapon was not one of Moonblood’s. So the MB stands for something else.
Alice goes to see how Molly is doing in the hospital. Amazingly she’s alive. Then Alice notices the scar on her throat, the same as the other dead girls.
In all of this mess, which has taken place over the span of only two days, Ray has forgotten about the black Ford pickup. Then as he’s coming out of the local bar, a black Ford pickup drives by. He follows it and after the owner gets out, checks the gas cap. Wrong truck. So he parks near the freeway out to the sanctuary and watches for black Ford pickups. When one drives by, he follows it to an old man’s house. He asks him about the pickup and if his son has driven it lately. The old guy says no, he doesn’t have a son. But his neighbor sometimes borrows it. His neighbor is Dr. John Boone and all the puzzles pieces suddenly fall into place as Ray goes up the hill to the old man’s neighbor and breaks into Boone’s house.
The first thing you notice about Boone’s house are all the animal trophies everywhere. He’s definitely an avid hunter. Then Ray goes into the basement. Why oh why is the torture room always in the basement? There on a metal table is a girl who has had her throat cut open to remove her vocal chords. I guess that’s where the title of the film comes from. She’s unconscious. On the wall are all the missing girl posters of his victims and on the table are tons of spears, all made by Boone as the tools to make them are there too. Then Ray is hit over the head by Boone and wakes up in Boone’s neighbor’s black pickup.
Meanwhile, after visiting Molly and getting curious about the scar on her neck, Alice goes to Dr. Boone’s office to see the medical report. Boone is gone but his nurse shows her the file. Boone has removed all of the photo evidence from the file which is more than suspicious. Then Alice sees a picture of Boone with a girl. Around the girl’s neck is a necklace and the pendant has the initials MB carved into it exactly in the same handwriting as the spearhead. Alice asks the nurse who the girl is. She says Melissa Boone, his daughter, who was hit by a drunk driver and left to die in the forest. There’s Boone’s motive.
Alice takes her deputies to Boone’s house and they break in to find the girl in the basement. She puts out an APB on Boone and drives to the sanctuary to tell Ray. When she hears Thor barking she goes to look at the camera monitors and sees Boone hunting Ray through the sanctuary.
Ray has no weapon except the pitfalls he has scattered throughout the sanctuary. So he rigs one and waits for Boone. Then he jumps him and hits him. He asks Boone why he killed Gwen. Boone says “she was a drain on everyone just like you”. He then explains that all of his victims had worthless parents like Ray and would be worthless adults, so he eliminated them for the betterment of society.
Alice arrives just as Ray is dragging Boone over the pitfall. She demands he stop. He refuses, but she doesn’t shoot. Ray throws Boone onto the pitfall and he is skewered by at least a dozen very large spears. Poetic justice. Then Ray closes the doors and leaves him there to die slowly. He tells Alice they’re even. They both leave. Neither of them tell anyone so the APB is still out on Boone.
Ray stops drinking. Molly recovers and attends Gwen’s funeral with Ray, Karl, and Debbie. Then he goes home and sits by the lake.
So who was the girl with the red shirt and blue jeans? I don’t think she could have been the dead naked girl. Her hair was a different color and why would the police remove her clothing and disturb all that evidence? It’s also not Gwen. She was wearing completely different clothes when she disappeared. So it’s most likely just another victim showing that the killer had escalated so that he was killing a girl every other day. That’s a terrifying thought.
8 out of 10 stars. I included the entire plot so you could see how beautifully this is plotted. The dialogue is also perfect. There are no cliches, no dumb dialogue. And although serial killers usually aren’t started this way, Boone probably had a lot of other skeletons in his closet. The pacing is so fast, that Ray isn’t the only one who forgets about the black pickup. I did too. That’s a great film. Casting was perfect too. Zahn McClarnon is one of my favorite actors. I didn’t even know he was in this. 🙂
The credits didn’t say where this was filmed. But supposedly it takes place next to a huge river, a huge lake, Sawbill Tribal Land, and Buck Lake. I suspect it supposedly takes place around the Sawbill Tribal Council in Slave Lake, Alberta, Canada north of Edmonton. Buck Lake is just south of Edmonton. This area is mostly Blackfoot Indians which is probably where Karl got his last name.