Toronto After Dark: Silent Retreat (2013) – Tricia Lee

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The Sunday afternoon feature at Toronto After Dark was a bit of a mixed bag, with a monster\cabin in the woods tale, that the more I thought about it had more political overtones than one would guess at first blush.

Janey (Chelsea Jenish), a ‘troubled youth is sent to a retreat that is meant to coach and counsel her to better interact with society. Run by Doctor Prince (Robert Nolan) and his two sons, the retreat only hosts 5 patients at one time, all of them female.

Its not long before you begin to suspect that there’s something seriously askew with this place, and its not just the deus ex machina stalking the forest and cleaning up loose ends.

Observant viewers may cotton to the fact early on, thanks to the dialogue and the brill-creamed, button down sweater, cigarette-smoking Ward Cleaver look that Nolan rocks in the film… the women are being conditioned, trained, in the best Tea-Party way to be silent, obey unquestioningly, and be subservient to their male betters.

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Ugh. That’s enough to make Prince a worthy villain in my book, and had the film followed the dynamic and back and forth battle of wills between a 21st century woman and a stuck-in-the-50s mentality trapped in a horror movie, this one could be a real winner. Throwing in an evolutionary offshoot escapee from The Descent seemed to suggest the filmmakers weren’t confident in their own subject matter, which is too bad because I think that on its own would have worked nicely.

As Prince and his sons brainwash and attempt to rewrite the women’s existence a dynamic battle of wills could have taken place a s a commentary of the way women are still perceived by some, and how they actually are.

To say nothing of young Alexis (Sofia Benzhaf), my favorite character in the film, her revelation about herself, and her character resolution is a little troubling…

Despite that, there is a lot of cool things in the film to hold one’s interest before it becomes a creture feature in the last part of the film. The main cabin with its secret, the conditioning of the girls, the rules, the reason the camp was created, if that had been the lone focus of the story this could have been an amazing thrill ride! In trying to combine genres, it settles for being a good flick.

I am very eager to see what Tricia Lee comes up with next because strong female voices in the horror genre are so few and far between.

Silent Retreat looks fantastic, shots composed beautifully, and some strong performances… Ms. Lee you have my attention, keep your films coming!!

This evening we’ll be looking at Odd Thomas and Solo… What are you watching After Dark?

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