Silence of the Prey (2024)

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Silence of the Prey (2024)

In order to reduce their number, Jonathan Swift in his satirical “A Modest Proposal” recommended that the poor be eaten. Co-directed by Karyna Kudzina and Michael Vaynberg, Silence of the Prey written by Kudzina and Saro Varjabedian is an homage to the 1729 paper. On all counts it is a velvet hammer strike at contemporary social attitudes towards immigration, with intensity mounting at every turn.

Nina (Karyna Kudzina) is an undocumented mother from Belarus living in America, she knows that either she and her daughter Bella will have a future there or they will live on the streets because nobody in this city hires people like her.

So Nina takes a job as caretaker at Luther’s (Chris Lapanta) rural home somewhere outside town. Life is simple here: food comes from nearby woods where it grows wild and clean, coughs are treated with local remedies made from things found around, all meals are eaten together always. There is no phone, internet or cell reception for miles around, and closest store is several miles away besides being down only road in or out.

According to Jonathan Swift’s satirical A Modest Proposal eating the poor would solve problems of having too many. Silence of the Prey by co-directors Karyna Kudzina and Michael Vaynberg written by Kudzina with Saro Varjabedian nods back toward that essay of 1729 while bumping against present society’s perception about immigrants hard enough to leave big marks.

Nina (Karyna Kudzina) stays illegally in United States being mother from Belarus without papers, either she or Bella can have future there but otherwise they’ll be homeless since no one will employ them within city limits. This explains why Nina becomes caregiver at eccentric old man Luther’s (Chris Lapanta) country place off town somewhere. Here life is easy, food comes from clean forest nearby where it grows naturally; coughs are treated with homemade remedies made from things got around there; all meals are shared together always. There’re no phones, no internet or cell reception for miles on end, and nearest store is several miles away down only road leading in or out.

Silence of the Prey begins strangely. Mother and daughter stop for bathroom break, then get accosted by group of men who come out from behind trees. This incident amounts to nothing but it does show how much of a fault this movie is when it is predictable. As soon as Luther appears you know that something isn’t right with him merely because he talks funny and looks weird. Nina learns what she has to do, one thing being never going into building where Luthor cures meat. He nearly kills Andres (Monte Bezell), who found his way there after his car broke down.

Folk horror motif comes along involving deer which are held sacred, killing them is said to be doing service tree otherwise overran by animal, though so far this claim has not been proven true at all. Bella even gets called “Bambi” by Luthor while he shows her different parts of farm. While staying on remote property Nina has hallucinations-nightmares about people with antlers coming up next to fences looking through windows etc..

The gore or the telegraphed situations are not really scary in Silence of the Prey, what’s horrifying is the prejudice, fear and ignorance that most people don’t acknowledge. This terrifying truth comes out during a party where some say they think immigrants aren’t human beings. Descriptions of newcomers as all evil and coming for your families foster ignorance and isolationism through their incendiary nature. “Is Belarus a country?” and “It was a part of Russia, wasn’t it, so what is the difference?” drive this point home at parties like these.

A few people at this party ask Andres where they can buy cocaine based on his apparent race alone. The real threat on full display is the “Ugly American” who has an unshakeable belief in American exceptionalism. It might seem preachy to some people but it also represents something very dangerous which could cause harm to someone’s life or safety thus deserves attention from us all without any exception being made.

Silence of the Prey is filmed lovingly; Varjabedian’s cinematography shows off lush greens in deep dark forests while still keeping things hazy enough that everything looks like it could be hiding just around the corner. The cast is small but mighty with Kudzina leading the way as she bears an uncanny resemblance to Lea Seydoux giving her character Nina a sense of resigned acceptance mixed with moments where she absolutely refuses to take shit from anyone anymore that are truly captivating watch unfold before our eyes even if we already knew what would happen next because come on now we’ve seen this movie before haven’t we? Yes we have indeed my friend yes we have indeed.

The script may have its signposts (okay fine more than just one or two) but here’s thing about signs: lot them go unnoticed by most people who pass them every day without ever thinking twice about looking up see if anything interesting written down there besides which way should turn left right? And that’s the real ugly monster living in our woods cities: those attitudes themselves disguised as mere jokes and remarks, waiting patiently for one person to finally notice them only then can they begin their bloody feast upon our souls.

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