Film Review: SPEAK NO EVIL

Film Review: SPEAK NO EVIL

By ABBIE BERNSTEIN / Staff Writer

Published: September 8, 2022 / 21:03

SPEAK IN EVIL movie poster |  ©2022 Shudder/IFC Midnight

SPEAK IN EVIL movie poster | ©2022 Shudder/IFC Midnight

Evaluation: not rated
Stars: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev, Hichem Yacoubi
Writers: Christian Tafdrup and Mads Tafdrup
Director: Christian Tafdrup
Distributor: shudder/profile pics
Release date of: September 9, 2022

There is a shot in approximately one hour and seven minutes in DON’T SPEAK BADLY which allows us to know exactly what is happening here. To be clear, most viewers already know from advertising that DON’T SPEAK BADLY it’s a horror thriller.

The question that builds up in the first two-thirds is: what kind of horror thriller sub-genre does it embody? We have plenty of time to consider the matter, as the earlier parts of the DON’T SPEAK BADLY unfold like a drama of manners. We started out in a car with a dirty windshield, driving down a dirt road at night. A Volvo truck parks in front of a detached house. Then a cut for the day. Danish couple Bjørn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) and their daughter Agnes (Liva Forsberg) are on vacation in Italy. Here they meet fellow vacationers from Holland, Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and Karin (Karina Smulders) and their son Abel (Marius Darnsley). Patrick explains that Abel has trouble speaking, having been born with an incomplete tongue. The couples got along well. A few months later, Bjørn and Louise receive a letter from Patrick and Karin, inviting them and Agnes for a weekend visit. Louise is a little hesitant as they don’t know the other family very well, but Bjørn is excited. Someone even asks, “What is the worst thing that can happen?”

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DON’T SPEAK BADLY it takes time to get to the answer. There are a number of microaggressions between couples that can be cultural or idiosyncratic. So, finally, we get to the big reveal, and things happen more or less as we expect. Since it takes so long to announce, it’s probably an unfair spoiler to specify DON’T SPEAK BADLYsubgenre of. This can be said: it is genuinely disturbing. It goes somewhere that not even most horror movies go.

It’s also the kind of cinema that will make some members of the audience want to argue a lot. Director Christian Tafdrup and his co-writer (and brother) Mads Tafdrup are adept at portraying moments of social awkwardness that can turn into an instant from well-meaning to hurting and vice versa. Tafdrup also has some extraordinarily powerful visuals, with some shots that are punches to the stomach. He gets some excellent work from the actors, particularly with Burian’s thoughtful and emotionally raw work as Bjørn.

Nonetheless, DON’T SPEAK BADLY literally declares a message in the dialog, at the end of runtime. There are several ways to interpret it. It’s easy to go along with the idea of ​​clearly taking a stand against imposing someone else’s limits. But given what we’ve learned about the characters, there seems to be a big political statement lurking here. It’s hard to know if this is deliberate or just comes with the territory. This reviewer experienced some knee-jerk intellectual reaction to certain plot and behavioral elements.

This is possibly as a self-protective reaction to the aforementioned disturbing aspects. Alternatively, it could be a struggle with logical problems that might be less noticeable if the tone were less naturalistic. You can’t deny the ability to DON’T SPEAK BADLY‘s creators and their commitment to their darkness. Other aspects are at stake. Note: The dialog in DON’T SPEAK BADLY is in English, Danish and Dutch. For those watching at home, at least on the review screen, subtitles must be turned on to get subtitles for Danish dialogue. Dutch dialogue is not subtitled.

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