Director and writer Ace Jordon, previously known for his short film Kill Devil Kill (2010), presents his latest deep entrenched in storytelling and slow pacing character building thriller tale, Silent Retreat, distributed by Midnight Releasing. Assisting him in the endeavor with the story is Heather Smith and Taryn Stenberg, surrounding themselves in the beautiful location of Big Bear Lake, California, an idyllic place leading one to comprehend either an environmental horror or murderous rampaging killer, and yet Ace develops another interesting concept for this 92-minute production of intimate treachery. One must note that this movie is not a remake or re-imaging of director Tricia Lee’s Silent Retreat (2013), of a mediation retreat set in woods, as Jordan’s has a business retreat set in wilderness.
The movie incorporates many of the normal horror elements and clichés, such as a group of friends (co-workers) retreating to a luxurious corporate cabin in the woods for a refreshing business team bonding experience and an ominous connection to the location. Hence six members of a firm venture to the cabin, although one of the members brings along the unexpected guest of a boyfriend, already the team dynamics sway, the first day turns to a set of characters. Quickly enough a member of the team vanishes, and with no call to authorities, the group splits up to search for her and horror fans know the results, a big mistake occurs but enters to the second act of the film. Now, this is not a straight paint by-numbers slaughter fest, this low-budget film presents dark humor with some thrills, and one true gory scene. The viewers learn that the location holds a secret and a plot hole, nearly at the same time, a private mental institution resided in the area long ago, now a beautiful carve luxury wilderness home and in the attic is a box that reveals the evil. The problem, how did the box get in the attic (more about this is a moment), that has nothing else in it, perhaps it has the power to conjure itself to the location, as well as a series of tunnels nearby. The cast does a fine job of entertaining, with the commonplace stereotypes, comedic exploits courtesy of Tedi (Eli Bildner) and a serious mindset of attitude presents a stellar display from character Lira (Devon Ogden), although a mention of quality work to Donny Boaz and Rebecca Summers as Zacry and Meigan, respectively. The box, sadly given away in the poster artwork of the DVD, involves a tongue; more lies, and handled nicely from Aidan Flynn, in a creepy performance. A few storylines evolve and contain notes and dead-ends to mislead the audience into a quasi-whodunit, assisted by flashback sequences, while in the start of the film, allow for a slow build-up the sluggish mounts in 45-minutes in and then feels a tad rushed nearing the finishing line. However, a classic and practical effect moment, as Jordan feels too much CGI becomes lazy, delivers in a bear trap digging into the flesh of one of the unfortunates’ head.
An interesting element in the movie delves cautiously into psychology motivation, from the lying standpoint and the mistrusting adults, especially a doctor, with children, as they age, and transform, leave beyond the imagination and hardened themselves to emotions. The adults in the film use cunning tactics of lying and deception to gain power and position, while avoiding ostracizing of others leading to rejection. This all comes into play as the tagline of the film “Liars must be punished” but sadly never achieves the true gore factor associated with such a provoking statement, likely to the budget constraints. The location works for excellent cinematography, but not for the story background, it seems a bit forced to make it work regardless of the situation, a problem for little money productions, just not believable and leads to daytime thriller found on the Lifetime TV network in the month of October.
Jordan’s film strives for a psychological mystery, tossing false clues amongst the real ones, and using just a bit of horror to appease the core, sadly though, not enough, it is a promising movie that presents a solid foundation for more exploits in the future from him. Alas this flick, gives a chill to those less aware of treasures found in thriller and horror markets, associated with haunted and tormented locations, closeted secret paranormal repercussions are ready to unleash retribution upon the fibbers.
This review was originally posted on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website in February 2016 with a view count of 1,765.
- Liars Must Be Punished
IMDb Rating: 3.8/10
Baron’s Rating: 3.5/10