Danish film “Speak No Evil” is an effective arthouse fright

Steve Watts, Managing Editor

Shudder has quietly become a powerhouse in the horror industry. The streaming service is dedicated entirely to the horror genre and has been producing high-quality scary movies consistently over the past couple of years. 

This October, Shudder released “Speak No Evil,” a truly twisted Danish film. The movie follows a Danish couple, Bjorn and Louise, and their daughter Agnes after they’re invited to spend time at a rural home in the Netherlands by a Dutch couple, Patrick and Karin.

The plot is driven by rising tensions between the families as Bjorn and Louise grow suspicious of their hosts’ true intentions. They’re also off put by Patrick and Karin’s son, Abel, who is afflicted with congenital aglossia – he was born without a tongue. Hence, the title of the film.

“Speak No Evil” is one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen. I was on the edge of my seat for even the most mundane conversations in the movie, always unsure of what to expect next. Director Christian Tafdrup never holds the camera completely still, adding to the stress of each moment. 

Tafdrup also lit all of the scenes in this film incredibly well. Shadows cast across characters’ faces made it feel like no one could be trusted. Though the movie is dark, it succeeds in making sure that the characters are always visible, even if the setting is not.

Adding even more unease to the film was Sune Kolster’s unnerving score. Some of the scariest moments in the film wouldn’t even be remotely frightening without the eerie noises of the string instruments in the soundtrack. 

That said, Tafdrup chooses the right moments to have no music in the film, leaving characters in complete silence and fear during some key moments.

The film is full of incredible acting. Morten Burian’s portrayal of Bjorn is among the best performances I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. While Bjorn was written very well, Burian made it feel like the character was a real, multi-dimensional person. 

Although I didn’t have any huge problems with “Speak No Evil,” I think that the film could have been a bit shorter. At 97 minutes, the film is slightly over the average runtime of horror movies. 

Because of that, I noticed there were two or three scenes throughout the film that didn’t add anything to the plot, further develop the characters or have any discernible value in relation to the theme. 

“Speak No Evil” belongs in the subgenre of arthouse, or elevated horror alongside movies like “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” or “The Lighthouse.” But “Speak No Evil” is as effective as those movies with a fraction of their budget. 

While the aforementioned three movies all had budgets around $10 million, “Speak No Evil” was given just under $3 million. Despite its lack of funding, the Danish film is a polished, high-quality product at the caliber of the others.

I would recommend “Speak No Evil” to anyone looking to experiment within the horror genre this Halloween.

4/5 Stars