Sundance 2022 Review: ‘Speak No Evil’

Christian Tafdrup wasn’t really a horror fan going into making Speak No Evil, but he had gone on some pretty damn awkward trips with his parents.

During the Q&A for the director’s Sundance Midnight section film, Tafdrup told viewers his inspiration came from those trips he took as a child where his parents would meet a couple who would suggest that his family visit their home in wherever someday.

The times his parents actually took the offer, it “always felt weird,” he said.

Vacationing in Tuscany, many years later, a Dutch couple extended him an offer to stay with them. While he didn’t take them up on it, Tafdrup wondered what would happen if he had, and if he had, “what if the worst thing that could happen actually would happen.”

Tafdrup developed the answer with his screenwriting partner and brother, Mads. “We shook hands and agreed we should make the most unpleasant horror film ever,” he said.

While probably not the most unpleasant horror ever, what the brothers came up with is definitely a progressively disturbing film, mixing elements of horror with a commentary on politeness. Those who have seen Get Out, Midsommar and Killing Ground will recognize its themes.

Nearly all viewers will leave slightly disturbed, not only by the actions that take place but by how they could have been prevented, perhaps rather easily.

In Speak No Evil, Danish couple Bjørn and Louise take a trip with their daughter, Agnes, to a charming Italian villa. Not wanting to be rude, but also not wanting to listen that one couple talk about their cooking class again, they start mingling with Dutch vacationers Patrick and Karin, who are on the trip with their shy, quiet child, Abel. Patrick is awkward, but he’s a “doctor,” and it seems he and Karin really enjoy spending time with the Danes. So, after discussing the idea with friends, Bjørn and Louise accept an invitation to visit the couple in the Dutch countryside.

When they arrive, Patrick and Karin become increasingly unpleasant to be around and harsh towards Abel. Patrick is still kind of creepy, and Karin acts parental toward Agnes.

But, hey, maybe the problem is actually Bjørn and Louise passing judgement.

You, too, can rationalize most of the things Karin and Patrick do for a while. You’ll leave with your own judgements about Louise and Bjørn and how you would have handled things differently. But, really, would you have? Or did they handle it like civilized people?

Jaime Winston
Jaime Winston
Jaime is a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. Formerly, he served as our editorial intern, then as our assistant web editor, and, finally, as our web editor. While he covers many different topics, he is especially interested in nerdy entertainment, from FanX's artist alley to Sundance's Midnight screenings.

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