Netflix has some serious FOMO.
The 2018 horror film A Quiet Place was a resounding success, earning $340 million at the global box office on a $17 million budget and winning the admiration of critics along the way. Netflix did not release A Quiet Place—Paramount Pictures did, and the studio and director John Krasinski are already working on a sequel. In the meantime, Netflix needs everyone to know that now it totally has a movie just as good, you guys.
On April 10, the streaming service released The Silence, a film that comes off as a desperate attempt to capitalize on the success of Krasinski’s breakout film. Like A Quiet Place, The Silence follows a family escaping to the countryside to hide from sadistic creatures that hunt any humans who make a sound. Like A Quiet Place, The Silence also features a main character who is deaf, which helps her family survive because they can communicate via sign language without making noise. Unlike A Quiet Place, The Silence is bad.
In fairness to The Silence, it is based on a book that came out two years before A Quiet Place was released. But the timing of Netflix’s film is still conspicuous: The Silence was filmed in 2017 (around the same time as A Quiet Place) and then acquired by the financially troubled distributor Global Road Entertainment later that year. In a failed effort to stave off bankruptcy, Global Road sold off the distribution rights to many of its titles, including The Silence. Netflix picked up the rights to the film, well after A Quiet Place had already become a hit.
The screenwriter behind The Silence, Shane Van Dyke, has a history of penning scripts that exploit the popularity of other movies. He’s written a number of films for the studio The Asylum, which specializes in “mockbusters,” or direct-to-video movies made specifically to capitalize on the success of big studio franchises with nearly identical titles and plots. Warner Bros. successfully sued The Asylum in 2012, claiming people had mistakenly purchased the mockbuster Age of the Hobbits, instead of Warner’s actual Hobbit movie.
Some of Van Dyke’s credits for The Asylum include Transmorphers 2 and Paranormal Entity. You can guess which franchises those mocked.
The Silence is technically not a mockbuster, as it was in development long before A Quiet Place came out. But Netflix is very much treating it as one, hoping it will tempt subscribers who liked Krasinski’s film (as well as Netflix’s own film Bird Box, which is also quite similar). Film critic Charles Bramesco sums up Netflix’s strategy in the Guardian:
The streaming giant’s executives fed the ubiquitous popularity of Bird Box along with their Chilling Adventures of Sabrina golden girl Kiernan Shipka into the all-powerful algorithm, and it regurgitated this low-rent imitator. The Silence exists for the sole purpose of being digitally sorted into a list of recommendations For Viewers Who Liked Bird Box, though that classification would be more accurately clocked as For Viewers Who Liked A Quiet Place. Come to think of it, the demographic they’re really after would be something closer to Viewers Who Have Trouble Telling Similar Things Apart.
There is little harm in Netflix wanting its own A Quiet Place—no one will realistically confuse the two films. But it underscores the deep cynicism of Netflix’s “something for everyone” content goal. The streaming service simply could not go another day without an A Quiet Place clone in its catalog. What matters to Netflix is that it’s no longer feeling left out. That the film is lousy is of no consequence.