Michael Pleckaitis, the maker of the horror comedy Trees and its even kookier follow-up The Root of all Evil, has been kind enough to give me the scoop on his new film, Silent. No man-eating trees this time; don’t expect anything quite as over-the-top as his tree-themed Jaws parodies.
Silent is a far more ambitious film, one he describes as a “Gothic comedy.” Done in the vein of a silent movie from the earliest days of cinema, this happy little silent medium suddenly finds itself in total calamity when one female amongst them suddenly develops a voice. The film’s talky heroine quickly comes to find her blessing is quite the curse, soon finding herself in all manner of peril because of it, a number of which are supernatural in nature. You’ll notice Nosferatu and Dr. Caligari types in the trailer.
“The film’s characters appear to have emerged straight out of the silent era. A villainous charlatan constantly being foiled by his own plots, a delightfully beautiful damsel who is too frequently in distress, an over-bearing minister who attempts to maintain social order by an intense glance or by biting words, and a hero who is smitten with the young damsel but prohibited by natural causes from ending the film’s story in but one sentence,” Pleckaitis told me recently.
In regard to the film’s more horrific elements, “Don’t be deceived by the trailer. There are many, many layers to this cake. Yes, there are hints to Caligari and Nosferatu. But, honestly I grew up watching all the classics – Dracula, Wolf Man – and even Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. I loved them. I wanted to make a ‘classic film’ with a modern twist to it and honor these great films.”
Having seen the trailer for Silent currently posted on YouTube, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. The only thing that springs to mind is Pleasantville, that 1998 Tobey Maguire comedy set in an idyllic 1950’s black & white universe that gets turned upside down when color is introduced to their world. But then Pleasantville didn’t involve trying to burn anyone at the stake, dungeons, or ghoul attacks.
Pleckaitis spent the past few years researching the history of silent film in preparation for penning and directing Silent and states, “Northern Jersey was intentionally chosen for the location of this film.” He points to the fact that “the film industry had its birth here. Silent theaters still feature silent films with pipe organ accompaniment. The Perils of Pauline was filmed here. Thomas Edison built the first indoor film studio here. The period was filled with magic! And then, almost as quickly as it was born, it faded and moved west to Hollywood. But the lessons of silent film are what shaped acting, directing, even storytelling. In fact several key scenes were filmed at the original locations used in some of the most famous silent films ever shot.”
Produced by Revscope Pictures, Inc., formed by Michael Pleckaitis and his wife Andrea, along with Carl Frederick, a 15-year veteran of MTV and CBS who also helped put the finishing touches on the screenplay, Silent is currently in the final stages of production in Northern New Jersey. No doubt there will be much more to come on this one in the near future. In the meantime, I highly recommend giving the trailer a look as well as the stills Pleckaitis has been kind enough to send along scattered throughout and below.
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