DreadWorld Review: 'Silent Retreat' (2016)

Corporate retreats, you would think after Friday the 13th: Part VI and the "Simpsons" episode where Homer and Mr. Burns get caught in the cabin together, HR Departments would have sworn them off for logical reasons. But apparently these "retreats" are still a very viable, very weird, aspect of corporate life. And based on the examples above, or any myriad of examples, including the subject of today's review, if you go on one of these retreats, you will either die or go insane...or both. So without further adieu, let's take a look at the most recent reason not to listen to your boss or to foster any meaningful relationships with co-workers, Silent Retreat.

Actually...let's take an editorial moment here. This film, Silent Retreat, is not to be confused with the 2014 film directed by friend of the site Tricia Lee, also called Silent Retreat (Review HERE). Why would the good folks at Starko Entertainment and Midnight Releasing do this to us? Other than causing us headaches with the nomenclature confusion, we can't figure it out either. So for those confused saying Mister Joshua "You've already reviewed Silent Retreat." I say, "I know...but not this Silent Retreat."

Twenty years or so before the main crux of our story, a young boy does some pretty fucked up things in mental institution. Cut to: Present day and said mental institution has now been remodeled into Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Much like the Wilderness Lodge the decor invokes the spirit of the rugged Pacific Northwest. Also like the Wilderness Lodge the earth under the complex is a winding series of tunnels with a lone soundproof cell hidden hidden deep in its depths. It's main purpose? To punish small children. It's to this place that a very misguided boss brings his team of good looking 20 somethings to bond and do a (very) small amount of work.

Silent Retreat wants to be an intelligent film with a couple twists at the end that leave the audience guessing...and director Ace Jordan almost pulls it off. Unfortunately, there are just way to many lapses in logic and common sense for the script to carry any sort of real momentum into it's reveal. A reveal, in fact that Ray Charles could see coming from the opening credits, and he's both blind and dead! Jordan sits on the action, on the killing, on every reason we come to see a horror film for far too long. I'm a fan of slower films, let the characters breathe, let's have a bit of backstory. But when after an hour of your film you still haven't pushed your characters past one note stereotypes (alpha male, slut, slob, ingenue, Jesus freak) then you need to go back to the drawing board.

I mentioned it earlier, but there is some very convenient lapses in logic in Silent Retreat. As a writer I understand the need to try to string actions together along a time line to create a narrative and sometimes that need requires a little, um, creative accounting when it comes to common sense. But these actions should at least originate from a logical starting point. When one of only five people on a corporate retreat goes missing, you do not wait 24 hours to look for them. First, they are there on business. They are there to work. Missing meetings when you are supposed to be sequestered and being productive is unacceptable. As a boss (as I am in "real life") there is no way in hell you let someone get away with that shit.

The largest leap in logic Silent Retreat asks you to make though is just dizzying...Spoilers (thanks River) ahead...so proceed with caution. Zacry, works for a company that just happens to book a corporate retreat at the same place he was once a mental patient as a child. This place has been completely gutted and remodeled - except for the box in the attic containing tapes of young Zacry's therapy sessions. The caretaker of this lodge, happens to be abusive orderly from Zacry's childhood in the mental institution. Oh, and the caretaker is also one of the other characters grandfather. It's a lot of manufactured happenstance to get film where it needs to be for the third act. Spoilers over.

That being said, Jordan does a really good job of trying to pull everything back from the brink in the third act. The narrative finally crackles to life and for the last 25 minutes or so Silent Retreat is a very well executed horror film. There are a couple legitimate goose bump moments contained in the last act of the film.

As with all indie horror fare the acting can be a little all over the place. I am pleased to say that, outside of a couple groan filled moments, the cast actually does a very good job here. Donny Boaz channels his inner Dan Stevens from The Guest as the too good to be true golden boy, which is a really good thing. His role needed an actor who can toe a very fine line, and he handles it adeptly.

Despite some of the flawed logic things that drive me insane watching a film like Silent Retreat, there is a good horror film buried in there. Maybe even more than one. Crazy guying killing people in a cabin is always one of our favorite sub-genres, add in creepy little kid with a deranged mind and it's a recipe for a satisfying viewing experience. Couple the decent premise with some good performances and a solid third act and Silent Retreat (the 2016 version) pokes it's head above most indie horror. Check it out if you can stomach some slowness coupled with some rather convenient logic.

** 1/4 stars out of *****

That's it for me...as always, thanks for reading and "Enjoy every sandwich."

https://www.youtube.com/user/Stark0tube (trailers, interviews and behind the scenes videos)

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