A company sends a department of six to a secluded lodge for a work retreat, meant both as a reward and a motivator to increase productivity. Plans go awry, however, when one of their employees goes missing and another discovers that the cabin was formerly a mental institution. One by one they succumb to the lodge’s past.
Ace Jordan’s directorial feature debut spends a lot of time getting us acquainted with his characters. Nearly 50 minutes of the 92 minute run time is dedicated to character introduction. There’s the definitive nice guy, protagonist Zacry (Donny Boaz) and the British sweetheart he’s crushing on, Meigan (Rebecca Summers). There’s the obnoxious prankster Tedi (Eli Bildner), the devout Christian Rita (Trista Robinson), and the resident mean slut Lira (Devon Ogden) with her boy toy of the week Ned (Aidan Flynn) that all arrive at the lodge for team building under the guidance of department head Dale (Danilo Di Julio). Each horror trope is covered, but it makes it difficult to believe they all work together as a cohesive department.
Perhaps it’s the scenes in which their respective tropes are emphasized, such as Tedi antagonizing Lira for her promiscuous ways until she chases him down and puts him in a head lock, while father figure Dale scolds them. It underscores their clichéd personas, but it does not sell the audience on their mature professionalism. When the plot is founded upon this being a work retreat, it’s an odd choice. The dialogue does nothing to help, as it’s often clunky and superficial.
When one of their own goes missing, they barely register before resuming their antics. This is the primary flaw; the central mystery is glazed over often in favor of spending time with our motley crew. Moments of foreshadowing are only acknowledged by way of over-the-top, soap opera style musical cues and then quickly forgotten. These moments are too few as it is; aside from the opening sequence you’ll long forget you’re watching a thriller before the climax.
It’s clear the director is trying to spin a psychological whodunit full of twists, but without any suspense or tension building, we’re left with boring character dynamics that more often than not lack any payoff. That the mystery is finally revealed to be another familiar trope doesn’t help.
The stylized opening credits and the focus on character development shows promise in Jordan, but the editing and screenwriting leave a lot of room for growth. Jordan spent so much time with the characters so that it would be harder to determine the killer, but the shallow dialogue and exaggerated acting work against his intentions. Too little is spent on the horror aspect of the plot in favor of setting up emotional triangles or squares between the core groups. Though some of it is actually necessary, it feels superfluous and the running time feels far longer than it is. By the time the body count actually starts piling up, we’re long past ready to clock out of this work retreat.
Silent Retreat will be available tomorrow, January 12, on VOD courtesy of Midnight Releasing.
Silent Retreat [Review]
A slow burn with no payoff, too much time is spent with characters that never develop past the tropes on which they’re based. Light on horror, but long in drama.