By William Blick.
Shows the glory of the ever-independent neo-noir film that will be around for a long time.”
For me, neo-noir reemerged effectively with Blue Ruin, an underrated Coen brother-esque film that was buzzing around in 2010’s era at the Hampton Film Festival, where I happened to see it. We now have another reemergence in Dan Gremeley and Brad Padowski’s 2023 entry, Silent as the Grave. With all the staples of the neo-noir genre, the film begins with a sort of meta-riff as we see Chris (Michael Kunicki), the main protagonist, screening his documentary on film noir, which five people attended. Padowski, who wrote this film, seems to be asking: Where is the future of film studies? However, despite a snub by a Sundance winning filmmaker, Chris wanders on and becomes obsessed with the fact that his uncle’s death was not really an accident. He spirals down into a kaleidoscope of paranoia and nastiness due to some intrusive thugs. Lest we forget: noir is the cinema of paranoia. Family secrets also come to light within the denouement of the rather brief 92-minutes running time in which the directors and screenwriter take a wonderful stab at maintaining the enduring appeal of this incredibly rich genre.
Silent as the Grave keeps things bizarre, intriguing, and with a bit of levity to keep the film from becoming too heavy-handed. The uneven shifting of tones doesn’t always work, but for the most part serves the film. The acting is fairly decent, yet there are some struggling aspects of the craft. However, this is a low-budget indie, not some big budget Ben Affleck/Denis Lehane affair, showing the glory of the ever-independent neo-noir film that will be around for a long time. If you want to see a film that doesn’t forget its roots, but pays homage to the masters, like for example, the Kiss me Deadly motif that reoccurs throughout the film, then see Silent as the Grave. Gremeley and Padowski carry the torch.
William Blick is an Assistant Professor/Librarian at Queensborough Community College. He has published articles on film studies in Senses of Cinema, Cineaction, and Cinemaretro and on crime fiction at Retreats from Oblivion: The Journal of NoirCon. His fiction has appeared in Out of the Gutter, Pulp Metal Magazine, and Pulp Modern Flash.