Sundance 2022 Review: “Speak No Evil”

Year: 2022


Runtime: 97 minutes


Director: Christian Tafdrup


Writer: Christian Tafdrup and Mads Tafdrup


Stars: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev

By Morgan Roberts

What happens when politeness gets the best of you? That is what Christan Tafdrup explores in his film “Speak No Evil”(2022). Danish couple Bjørn (Morten Burian) and Louise (Sidsel Siem Koch) agree to visit Dutch couple Patrick (Fedja van Huêt) and Karin (Karina Smulders) after the couples met on vacation in Italy.  What starts off as a visit with some lightly rose-tinted flags, the red flags escalate to an outstandingly shocking finale.

Like many horror films, there are some choices made by Bjørn and Louise that will infuriate you.  Those flags will be redder than red and yet the couple remain in the same situation.  However, from the get-go, the film starts with a strong unsettling feeling thanks to the eerie score by Erik Molberg Hansen.  That set up never leaves.  Even though the film is peppered with jokes and sarcasm, you laugh with a gnawing feeling the entire time.

The core four actors give tremendous performances.  Even if you are yelling at Bjørn and Louise, Burian and Koch bring sympathy to their characters as they argue about leaving and what is or isn’t polite.  Meanwhile, van Huêt and Smulders lay on the charm early on before twisting it into gaslighting.  Additionally, the two children in the film, Agnes (Liva Forsberg) and Abel (Marius Damslev) are pitch-perfect.  Forsberg echoes her mother’s concerns while practicing the politeness her father is hell-bent on exuding.  Damslev plays up the unsettling nature of this world by playing a haunting and disturbed child without saying a word.

Tafdrup clearly understood the strengths each of his actors possessed.  Each character felt very lived in without needing to describe who they are.  Their motivations (or deceptions) unfold as the stakes grow.  Tafdrup also co-wrote the script with brother Mads, and it’s evident this sibling pair knows how to craft a character-driven horror that comes to a jaw-dropping climax.

What makes this film so great is its final act.  Everything culminates to that moment, and even if some of it is predictable – because plot-wise, it makes perfect sense – it still leaves you absolutely speechless.  The ending is stunning and one I am sure audiences will be talking about after the film makes its premiere on Shudder.  “Speak No Evil” is a master class in horror that will leave you absolutely rattled.  

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