With frightening realism, Silo depicts a tragedy all-too-familiar for rural communities

By: Steve Pulaski

The term “grain entrapment” meant nothing to me until I moved to a more rural region of my home-state of Illinois. Around here, silos stand tall over vast acres of manicured farms. They’re necessary containers for storage in effort to feed large portions of the country. They can also be unforgiving death traps, especially for children. While federal regulation has aided in preventing many deaths from grain engulfment, smaller, family farms are exempt from such laws, with children often working around dangerous equipment — and grain bins.

For anyone in a sparsely populated area such as myself, Marshall Burnette’s Silo shows a lifestyle that comes with a heavy price. Too often are rural communities shortchanged in film, with individuals in these parts depicted as backwards hicks who preach the gospel of racism. You’ll certainly find some, but I assure you’ll find most people in areas like this are very similar to the folks in Silo. They’re honest, hard-working people with a moral compass.

A town’s ghosts, grudges, and flaws all surface over the course of Silo‘s fleeting 70 minutes. The cast is led by a new face in Jack DiFalco, who plays Cody, an asthmatic teenager who aspires to be a heavy metal singer. He works part-time harvesting grain and feed for a neighbor’s farm, alongside his pal Lucha (Danny Ramirez). Cody’s mother, Valerie (Jill Paice), has tried to keep a watchful eye on her son since her husband was killed, but she feels their connection slip away even on a simple drive to the farm.

It’s when farm-owner Junior (Jim Parrack) activates the auger — unaware that Cody, Lucha, and an elderly farmer (James DeForest Parker) are working inside — that tragedy strikes. The flowing grain engulfs the elder quickly and traps Cody with barely any wiggle-room. Much of the story consists of the rescue efforts, fielded by volunteer fireman Frank (Jeremy Holm), who has a troubled connection to Cody’s family.

Adapted from Burnette’s short film of the same name, Silo features gorgeous cinematography from Hunter Robert Baker, who casts an orangish hue over the picture, evoking a pleasantly rustic look. When nightfall arrives, the palette assumes an attractive teal color. There’s a reason these colors are so common. Their might not be a better pair of contrasting shades in the color wheel than blood orange and saturated blue.

Burnette and screenwriter Jason Williamson do not entrap us in the bin. They permit us to wander around this sleepy Midwestern town and see the folks who populate it. Junior’s father (Mike Seely) is experiencing dementia. Since the family presumably cannot afford a live-in nurse, it’s whomever happens to be in close company to the man that is tasked with suppressing his busy yet failing mind — be it Junior or a local cop. Meanwhile, Frank picks a fight with other local firefighters, insisting that conventional practices to retrieve Cody would instead invite an avalanche of feed onto the boy, engulfing him beyond rescue.

The entrapment sequences are nothing short of harrowing. On the off-chance you enter this picture unaware of grain entrapment, Silo will assure you understand the gravity of the situation early. The character development, however, feels both a little lax and yet a bit overdone. While Burnette and Williamson succeed in plunging us into this locale on any given day, it often seems like more context from these characters is missing. Backstory is revealed in doses, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Cody’s entrapment happens roughly 20 minutes into an already brief 70 minute film. More exposition and dialog in the opening 30 minutes would’ve likely ironed out the wrinkles.

The cast is uniformly solid. Parrack shows himself to be a conflicted man of God in the opening and closing monologues of the film and delivers them with great poise. DiFalco is plucky and doesn’t wilt when the conflict heightens. A few more beats with Paice’s Valerie could’ve illustrated her as more than just the fretting mom.

Silo concludes with a title-card informing us that 1,270 grain entrapments have occurred since 1964 and nearly all end in fatality. It’s a problem a bulk of America blind to, insisting we need more films like this one that humanize with rural communities and the people that ultimately keep this country fed.

NOTE: Silo is now in theaters and available to rent on various streaming platforms, such as Amazon Prime and Vudu.

Grade: B-

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6qSGKN42Gc [/embedyt]