What is Witty Watching?

Speak No Evil – Movie Review (Sundance Film Festival)
October 28, 2022

Synopsis: A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness.
Director: Christian Tafdrup
Stars: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huet, Karina Smulders

Ari Aster, Jordan Peele and Ben Young. They are the directors of Midsommar, Get Out and Hounds of Love. I mention those three movies because they are my favourite thriller/horror movies in recent memory. Of course, if we are going to do a history of the genre, we would mention The Exorcist, The Shining etc. but I did say recent.

Allow me to bring a fourth name to the table and that is Christian Tafdrup. Tafdrup is a Danish filmmaker and with Speak No Evil he has established himself as someone who not only gets the horror genre but excels in it.

This is such an interesting type of movie to review. Not only is this genre so subjective but I always come across people with their defiant arms folded and the usual ‘these movies don’t scare me’.

Fair. For myself, what I find scary is something that can actually happen.  The red headed doll or the guy with hockey mask I never took seriously but the group of college boys being lured into a creepy hostel, well that’s a different story.

In this film we meet two couples, one from Denmark, Bjorn (Morten Burian) and Louisa (Sidsel Siem Koch) and one couple from Holland Patrick (Fedja van Huet) and Karin (Karina Smulders).

Both couples happen to be on vacation in Tuscany and they meet each other. They are around the same age and each couple has a young child.

They enjoy each other’s company and when their vacation ends, they exchange contact information, you know, because it’s the nice thing to do.

Once home Bjorn and Louisa receive an invitation from Patrick and Karin inviting them to come visit and they decide to go to Holland to visit their new ‘friends.’

In the beginning the visit seems to be going well. Sure, our Dutch hosts have some idiosyncrasies but who doesn’t? Our Danish couple don’t want to be rude. But there are signs of things being off. We have Patrick, who claimed to be a Dr but when someone gets a small cut he has no idea what to do. And there is the phrase ‘dance like no one is watching’ and Karin takes that to heart.

The brilliance of this film is that Tafdrup is a patient director, and he doesn’t follow used tropes that we constantly see in horror movies. He takes his time telling this story and because nothing is rushed the events of the third act are that much more satisfying and horrific.

The movie also grapples with the concept of would you risk your safety for politeness? Because this is exactly where our Danish couple find themselves.

The performances of our four leads are great and you feel every emotion conveyed on screen.

This is a movie that won’t leave you anytime soon and while it may not be for all audiences it is utterly intense and a breath of fresh air.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film and think it’s a great entry into the horror genre. Believable performances, a familiar scenario (who hasn’t met vacation friends) all brought together in the brilliantly twisted vision of Christian Tafdrup.

Ari Aster, Jordan Peele, Ben Young, please make room at the table for a fourth, Christian Tafdrup is about to join you.

Grade: A-

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