Experiment in Terror:
Silence's Crescendo

by Bill Mousoulis

Silence's Crescendo (dir. Saidin Salkic, 2018, 40 mins, Australia)

This film is so intense it’s almost unbearable.  Like a cross between Grandieux’s La vie nouvelle and Lynch’s Eraserhead, but on a very small budget, Saidin Salkic’s new mini-feature is quite possibly the most nightmarish horror film you will ever see.  There are echoes of German silent experessionism too, but who’s counting, in the face of such raw terror?

In Salkic’s last few films, he has transcended the confines of the “experimental cinema” paradigm he works in, and pushed his form to serve incredible (either sublime or severe) emotional states.  Waiting for Sevdah and The Arrival of a Phoenix are in the “sublime” mode, as their aesthetics push (like pulsating blood) to create pure joy;  Robbery of a Truffle Truck and now Silence’s Crescendo are in the “severe” mode, the aesthetics grinding away relentlessly to create pure terror.  See my essay on this website for more on the previous films.

The scenario is simple, composed of only a few elements: a man in his house, the phone ringing, someone banging on the door, fear, threat, malevolence, one voice, another voice, an attack, a response.  Salkic takes this hackneyed premise and heightens it, distorts it, muffles it, extends it.  Murky B&W, flashes of light, distorted guitar, a creaking violin figure, heavy breathing, crows, voices, ringing phones, banging doors, and a terror attack, ultimately.  But what makes this film is the “hand” of experimental cinema.  That “hand” we’ve seen a million times before, the endless repetitions and variations of the same material, that experimental films (both good and bad) have utilised.  But in this case, the repetitions and variations are so charged with intensity and emotion that the film becomes nightmarish and truly terrifying for the beholder.

Never before have I witnessed such a film, where the terror is so relentless, for a full 40 minutes, that you just want it to stop.  Most of your average Hollywood or art horror films will have their modulations, and perhaps stretch a particular sequence out to 20 minutes, but even then it’s at a “medium burn”, with simply puncutations of violence thrown in.  Silence’s Crescendo has the confidence to keep a heightened moment of fear and terror going for 40 full minutes, at such an intensity that when the attack finally comes, in the last few minutes, the film actually flies off to a different stratosphere, the attack feeling more like an attack on the victim’s soul, not just their body. 

Seriously, this film is not for the faint-hearted.  Some may laugh at this comment of mine, but if you bypass the fact that the film is made with no money, and give yourself to the film, then you will be transported into a black and terrible place unlike any other.  I salute Salkic for creating such a unique experience.

It will be interesting to see how this film plays to actual audiences, when it starts getting some screenings.  I expect mass walk-outs.

Bill Mousoulis is a Greek-Australian independent filmmaker since 1982, and occasional writer on film.

Published June 28, 2018. © Bill Mousoulis, June 2018