Silence of the Prey

03/07/2024 07:52

Film: Silence of the Prey

Year: 2024

Directors: Karyna Kudzina and Michael Vaynberg

Writers: Karyna Kudzina and Saro Varjabedian

Starring: Karyna Kudzina, Chris LaPanta and Monte Bezell



This a movie that I got the chance to see via screener takes to Shirly from Studio Dome / The Horror Collective. I was looking through the press material and seeing that this was horror, I was down. This being a 2024 release was something else working in its favor. Other than that, I came into this one blind.

Synopsis: in a desperate bid to secure a future for her child, an undocumented immigrant mother takes a caretaker job. Unbeknownst to her, the elderly man conceals a horrifying truth.

We start this off with a car traveling down a road going through the woods. Mary (Lorianna Izrailova) is driving. She is giving background information to where she is taking Nina (Karyna Kudzina) and her daughter, Isabella. These two are from Belarus. It sounds like they fled to America as Nina spoke out against the government so she would be imprisoned. Mary is taking her to a place where they put undocumented immigrants until they get on their feet. There are good number who come through here.

There is an odd scene where they stop off and we hear a scream in the distance. I wasn't sure if this was human or a dog. We do see someone flee out of the woods, forcing Nina and Isabella back to the car. A group follows this person from the woods. Mary gets them started once again.

They arrive then at the cabin belonging to Luther (Chris LaPanta). We learn about him and how his family has lived here for generations. They came over with the pilgrims. Luther's ancestor, with others, created this settlement known as New Plymouth. They were stricter with their beliefs so that caused them to break away. Luther lives off the land and his place doesn't have all the basic amenities you'd expect. There is a wrinkle here. He doesn't allow people with children to stay with him. Mary asks for an exception here. This older man does agree.

We then see Nina and Isabella settle in. There are growing pains as Nina looks or touches things that she shouldn't. Luther is stern with her. Things do take a turn when Andres' (Monte Bezell) car breaks down and he needs help. When he first showed up, Luther went into town. Nina flees into the house with her daughter to hide. Andres shows up again later and is knocked out by Luther. He doesn't trust outsiders but relents hearing Andres' story. It will take time to fix his car, so he allows him to stay. Luther plans a party to invite his neighbors and friends over. It is from here we see the truth of their way of life and things that Nina has been seeing.

That is where I'll leave my recap and introduction to the character. Where I want to start is that I like the set up here. I'm not an expert by any stretch, but I did pick up on things through this opening dialogue between Nina and Mary. Then I noticed things that Luther said. I won't reveal what I thought, but what I will say is that the alternate title to his is Harvest. There were cool images used that I was a fan of. It also made me think of mythology of rural areas like this that works as well.

Now that I've set those aspects up, let me delve into what I can. Nina is an undocumented refugee fleeing to the United States for political reasons. She has a daughter, so she needs to be careful. She is a bit too trusting, but there's not a lot she can do either. This is something that she talks to Andres about, who is also an immigrant to the US. What I'll say here is that this is poignant to the times. Nina is white and from Eastern Europe. There is a bit less racism when it comes to Luther and his friends. They still don't understand the difference between Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. I found that interesting. The idea of undocumented individuals is a hot button topic as well, regardless of where they're from. I should also end this section by saying that it is interesting that Kudzina co-directed, co-wrote and stars in this. It makes me think she is pulling from stories that she knows as this is claiming to be based on a true story. I wonder how much of this specific movie is true. There is text at the end about people going missing, especially undocumented individuals. I'd bet that is where realism comes from.

I think then I'll shift over to Luther and his friends. We get the idea from the first time we meet him that there's something off about him. LaPanta does well at giving us that there is anger there. He is doing a nice thing for Nina and her daughter. I can't hate him for expecting certain things. For most of what we see, it isn't bad. Where I have problems is this tea that he is giving her that makes her drowsy. She doesn't want to take it. What is good is that it does seem to cure this cough that she can't shake. It makes you question what we're seeing. As this goes on though, we see there are racist beliefs that Luther along with Brandon (Michael Doyle), Anna (Rebecca Packer) and Justin (Tim Shelburne) share. They also might be a cult that do rituals as well. I thought LaPanta was great here and these other cast members round out what you'd expect of his group.

Since I'm not going to spoil things, I'll shift over to the rest of the cast. There isn't much here. The little girl who takes on the role of Isabella is good. She doesn't fully understand what is happening around her which felt real. Bezell is good as this 'forbidden fruit' to tempt Nina. She wants to leave with Andres, but without knowing the truth, she feels indebted to Luther. That felt real as well. I also thought that Izrailova and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.

All that is left then is filmmaking. I thought that the cinematography was good. They set up that this cabin is in the middle of nowhere. With the help of Andres, we know that there are few people close by and it isn't easy to get away. I also believe that things that happen could be due to that isolation as well. I like the fuzzy focus we get when Nina is drugged. That was a good touch to simulate what she is seeing and feeling. We don't get a lot in the way of effects, but we don't necessarily need them. There is great masks and things worn using deer skulls as well as antlers. I like that aspect. That worked what was needed. The soundtrack also works for what was needed.

In conclusion, I rather enjoyed what this movie was doing. This is going to be dated bringing up the war in Ukraine, but I like how they correlate to this group here in the US. We have an interesting commentary on immigrants and how people like this can disappear if they aren't careful. There are stakes with Nina and her daughter being taken in by a man they don't fully know in Luther. I thought that this was well-made. There are elements that are a bit generic and I don't know if this one is enough to fully stand out amongst them. I still enjoyed my time here. The isolated feel was great along with things they did with the cinematography and framing. I'd recommend giving this a viewing if the things that I've said pique your interest as this was a decent independent film.


My Rating: 7 out of 10