For the third Sundance screening of the week, we were presented with Sean Ellis’ Eight For Silver, a werewolf film set in the 19th century. Ellis’ period horror film breathes some new life into the werewolf sub-genre, which made for a very interesting and unique vision. John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) arrives in a small British village that is being attacked by a mysterious creature to assist the Laurent family (Alistair Petrie and Kelly Reilly) after Seamus (Petrie) has massacred a Romani clan that was inhabiting land that they had a claim to near his home. The massacre leads to the Romani leader cursing the land before her death. To not spoil anything else, I will just describe the rest as a very intense and well-performed horror spectacle.
I absolutely loved the misty and moody visuals that fill every frame of the film. Ellis is well-known for his mastery of photography, and it is just so impressive that he wrote, directed, and shot the film. It looks incredible. The village, the fields, and the forest are all perfectly encapsulated in stark and immersive images. The only flaw with the visuals of the film lies in the few instances of a foggy filter being applied over a couple of the action sequences, which was a bit distracting. Aside from that, the werewolves were shown in brief flashes and in carefully constructed frames to make them quite effective.
In the Q&A for the film, Ellis discusses critical horror films like Alien (1979), The Thing (1982), and The Exorcist (1973) as being big influences for the feel of the film, and it’s easy to see that when looking at the incredibly effective and disturbing practical gore effects in Eight For Silver. Petrie and Reilly join Ellis in the Q&A and describe how they constructed their narratives in terms of a family drama instead of looking at it as a horror film.
Eight For Silver was a thrilling and intense werewolf film that I feel will definitely stand ahead of the mediocre werewolf fare that we’re normally given. With strong performances, beautiful images, and intense practical gore effects, it is very easy to give this film the highest recommendation.
Here’s to three more Sundance screenings this week. As a funny note, there were characters named Edward and Jacob here, which I like to think was an intentional joke referencing everyone’s favorite love triangle! Ha!