Silent Night tells the story of a perfectly normal, fancy Christmas on a country estate, with one key distinction: it is on the eve of the apocalypse, as an environmental disaster has created toxic clouds that will soon kill everyone on Earth. Despite this, hosts Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Matthew Goode) try to put on a good show, to make the extended family’s final moments as happy as possible – but things never go according to plan at Christmas and things rapidly take a turn for the horrifying.
The film takes both sides of its premise and runs with them wholeheartedly, weaving the typical drama of both holiday movies and apocalypse cinema together in a surprisingly cohesive combination. Family and relationship drama compete with the looming spectre of death itself, and due to the messy ensemble cast sometimes win out in interesting ways. Silent Night also uses its opulent setting and posh characters to comment on subjects like classism and racism, although disappointingly it doesn’t really commit to any sort of specific message. The writing also has some trouble escalating the comedy along with the horror – while there is an entertaining undertone of gallows humour, that part of the film can sometimes feel left by the wayside in a way that feels unsatisfying.
Where the script can at times be a bit lacking, it’s more than made up for with the strong performances of its talented cast. The premise definitely provides a difficult acting needle for the cast to thread, vacillating back and forth between festive fun and mortal dread, but the acting across the board helps to compensate for some of the narrative’s deficiencies and makes for some truly gripping character interactions. Roman Griffin Davis in particular puts in a fantastic performance as Nell’s son, Art, painting a complex portrait of stubborn defiance and utter vulnerability in the face of the apocalypse.
Silent Night is a fascinating Christmas film, delivering equal helpings of character comedy and deep existential horror in an off-beat and unsettling mix. It’s a deliberately uncomfortable watch, and the story might hit a little differently than was originally intended in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but for anyone in the mood for something dark this festive season it’s a compelling and emotional experience.
Silent Night is released on 3rd December 2021.
Watch the trailer for Silent Night here: