Silent Retreat (2016)

silent retreat

1.5mls

Ace Jordan directs Silent Retreat, a 2016 horror film from a story by Heather Smith and Taryn Stenberg. A fairly standard, trope-oriented picture, this is a bit of a slow-burner with character development that doesn’t quite pay off.

Silent Retreat does succeed in terms of appearance in that it doesn’t share the shaky aesthetics of other low budget horror fare, but that’s not always a good thing. Some flicks succeed because they’re a little dog-eared, as a rougher quality provides signs of life. While Jordan’s outing isn’t inert, it’s not adventurous or exuberant either.

Zacry Stabard (Donny Boaz) is giving Meigan De Foresi (Rebecca Summers) a ride to a corporate retreat in the middle of nowhere. It’s apparent that Zacry wants to give Meigan a ride of another kind, as he nearly drives into oncoming traffic while he’s scoping a peek. The retreat takes place at a cabin in the woods, where the other employees have gathered.

Rita (Trista Robinson) is the prototypical religious girl, while Tedi (Eli Bildner) plays the hateful sleazebag. Dale (Danilo Di Julio) is the boss, while Lira (Devon Ogden) is the office bicycle. She’s brought her current toy (Landon Ashworth) along. All is going well with this dysfunctional group until Rita goes missing and Meigan discovers some odd tapes.

Silent Retreat spends a great deal of time with its characters, which is theoretically a good thing. The trouble here is that said characters are one-dimensional at best. Because Tedi has no layering, his remarks toward women come across as heartless sexual harassment. Considering that the rest of the dudes in the group chuckle at his idiocy, one can’t help but wish for some bloody just desserts.

Unfortunately, the women don’t come up with a gruesome plot to murder their male employees and rally for wage equality or something. Instead, Silent Retreat converts the volatile corporate retreat into some sort of asylum-based grinder. It plants certain compelling seeds, like the whole religious angle, but very little of substance develops.

There are a lot of dangling possibilities in Silent Retreat and it’s clear the story is packed with ideas, but the development and execution of those ideas leaves a lot to be desired. There are some interpersonal difficulties, like when Lira all-too-briefly frames Zacry for sexual harassment, that would’ve benefitted from more attention.

Sometimes, the approach works. The understated groundwork of Zacry’s attraction to Meigan make for a decent aside, especially considering the revelations toward the end of the movie, but a lack of narrative focus jams the plot with too many other unnecessary details.

There are other issues, like stiff acting and wooden dialogue. And the matter of Rita’s disappearance is awkward, which is rough because it’s supposed to be the catalyst for the horrifying events. Nobody seems to care that she’s missing, with the exception of Meigan, and the employees don’t even start looking until she’s been gone for more than a day.

Had Jordan’s film sent up the tropes and put the loathsome employees through their proverbial blood-spattered paces, Silent Retreat would go down as a palatable chunk of low-end horror. But it’s too generic, bland and predictable to land any punches, leaving it as yet another unremarkable entry in a sea of similar efforts.

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