Less is more with the spooky ghost tale 'Silhouette.'
Release Date: October 1, 2019
MPAA Rating: NR
Silhouette is the story of Jack and Amanda Harms who, after the passing of their young daughter, set out into seclusion to begin their lives anew. Quickly upon their arrival, things go awry when the sins of their past come back to haunt them.
Director: Mitch McLeod
Screenwriter: Mitch McLeod
Producer: Mitch McLeod
Cast: April Hartman (Amanda Harms), Tom Zembrod (Jack Harms), Savannah Solsbery (Sarah Harms), Jessica Dawn Willis (Dawn)
Editor: Marc Rouse
Cinematographer: Marc Rouse
Production Designer: David Jeter
Music Score: Michael Vignola
Microbudget horror is awesome. It’s fun to see what filmmakers can do with the tiniest bit of money. Usually, what they come up with is found footage, and all of the dubious levels of effectiveness that come with it. Sometimes, though, you get some real frugal creativity. Sometimes, you get movies like Silhouette.
Silhouette is about a married couple, Jack and Amanda Harms (The Night Before’s Tom Zembrod and Suburban Coven’s April Hartman), who want a fresh start after the death of their young daughter. So, in true horror movie fashion, they move into a strange house in a secluded town. Also in true horror movie fashion, Amanda begins seeing spooky things around the house, including the figure of a little girl who may or may not be the ghost of her daughter Sarah (Savannah Solsbery from Sacrament).
Writer/director Mitch McLeod (Arc, Novella) tells a pretty standard story with Silhouette, but manages to find a fresh and unique way to do it. It’s basically a ghost story that deals with the underlying themes of grief, loss, and pain. But it’s also got an intellectual side to go with the artistic, challenging the audience to come to terms with their emotions while still having to figure out just what the heck is going on. It’s not at all confusing, it’s just a bit obtuse at times.
And it’s long. If there’s one specific knock against Silhouette, it’s the length. It’s a slow burner, and that’s the problem. The movie as a whole is a bit too slow. Certain scenes are paced glacially, seemingly going on long after their point is made. Others seem to serve no purpose at all other than to pad the running time of the enigmatic ghost story, which, at just shy of two hours, doesn’t really need the fluff.
Aside from the unnecessary length, Silhouette is a wonder of economic filmmaking. McLeod squeezes everything he can out of his small talented cast and the limited locations. Visually, it is a surreal nightmare, and the score, composed by Michael Vignola (No More Lights in the Sky), is suitably tense and dissonant. And it all culminates in one of those shocking endings that comes out of nowhere to tie the entire film together.
Imagine what The Shining or The Changeling would have been had either of those movies been made on a film school budget, and that’s a pretty good idea of what you get with Silhouette. The rough edges show, but McLeod uses them to his advantage. It’s all part of the mystique. Horror fans should keep an eye out for Mitch McLeod if (or when) he ever gets to make a movie with a “real” budget.
Silhouette is a ghost movie, but its ghosts are not the typical, transparent reflection specters. The scariness of the movie is reliant on what is not shown to the audience. And, refreshingly, it does not lean into cheap jump scares. It’s more of a mood thing, a lot of creep and not much BOO! And it’s not entirely effective, but it does generate enough fear to keep the audience on its toes. The chances of Silhouette inspiring any nightmares after the fact are pretty slim, but it’s good for a few shocks while it’s being watched.