An exercise in atmosphere and mood

by Jason Howard

The eyes are the gateway to the soul, and as the opening seconds of this film focus tightly on the eyes of our main character, we begin to realize that this particular soul carries a lot of weight.

Colby (Jeremiah Sayys, also writer and director) is a recently widowed scuba diver who is returning home in an attempt to recover from the brutal murder of his wife. Despite the attempts of his family and friends, Colby is experiencing visions, and even more so, sounds that threaten to send him spiraling into madness. Are they all in his head? Could they be otherworldly?

Like the recent Berberian Sound Studio, Of Silence is a horror/drama hybrid, that relies more on production design and atmosphere, than jump scares and heavy gore. It’s a refreshing tendency that I wish we’d see more of in modern horror. Featuring excellent cinematography by Erick M. Crespo and quality production design by Reed Johns, Of Silence makes great use of it’s one location set.

Even more impressive is the sound design, including an effective score by Frederik Wiedmann. For a film entitled Of Silence, sound is one of the most important aspects, and luckily, one of it’s biggest strengths. Most of the things that Colby hears in his head would send the best of us into a fit of insanity as well.

Of Silence
Jeremiah Sayys
Jeremiah Sayys, Masiela Lusha and Ashlee Gillespie
Release Date
Jason’s Grade: B-

The film is also bolstered by a strong leading performance by Sayys, who spends very little of the running time off screen, so he has tasked himself with some very heavy lifting. Fortunately, he seems up for it. After that eerie opening close up of his eyes, his performance does take a couple of scenes to truly take command (a problem shared by a few other cast members as well, making me wonder if they shot largely in sequence). But, that quickly goes away as he ultimately delivers a performance that is not only genuinely creepy, but also quite believable. Even when his character is not speaking, Sayys gives you everything that you need to know via his expressions and physicality. He is able to make you feel for his character in the early stages, and that sympathy proves to be important as his psychological state begins to worsen through the film. Supporting performances are also quite good — Sayys has surrounded himself with a cast that is as talented as his crew.

On an additional note, while I am not a format purist, it is refreshing to see that this was shot on film. The 35mm stock gives it a bit of old school touch that matches well with the tone of the movie.

Unfortunately for some, the ending raises just as many, if not more questions, than it ultimately answers, but for this viewer, that left me intrigued rather than confused.

Today’s horror/thriller films are generally littered with blood and guts (nothing wrong with that) and feature performances by flavor-of-the-month television stars. Since this film delivers on neither of those counts, unprepared audience members may feel that there are a few slow patches and could be slightly let down by the film’s perceived lack of payoff. But, I believe there is an audience for this type of movie (of whom I am one) and it’s nice to see a successful attempt at originality. This one will really get under your skin if you let it. I certainly look forward to the next project of this first time filmmaker.