One Of The Scariest Scenes In Speak No Evil Speaks A Whole Lotta Evil

(Welcome to Scariest Scene Ever, a column dedicated to the most pulse-pounding moments in horror with your tour guides, horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato. In this edition, Chris is reminded that hell is other people with "Speak No Evil.")

Spoilers for "Speak No Evil" follow.

A lifetime of watching horror movies has more or less desensitized me, but every now and then, something comes along that burrows into my skin. "Kill List" is one of the prime examples, and more recently, "Speak No Evil" earned that distinction as well. In fact, Christian Tafdrup's immensely disturbing film got to me so much that I know I'll never watch it again. It's such a hopeless, cruel film that a part of me questions exactly who this movie is even for. But if you're looking for something terrifying, look no further than this movie's final, terrible moments. 

The Setup

On vacation, Danish couple Bjørn and Louise meet Dutch couple Patrick and Karin. Both couples have a child — Bjørn and Louise have a little girl named Agnes, and Patrick and Karin are parents to a little boy named Abel. Abel, according to his parents, was born with no tongue, which makes him the silent type. After hitting it off on vacation, the Dutch couple invites the Danes to spend the weekend with them at their house. Because they're polite, the Danish couple says yes, and they bring Agnes along with them.

Right off the bat, you know this is a bad idea. And to be frank, this would never happen to me, because I avoid people at all costs. Go stay a weekend with strangers? Absolutely not! Couldn't be me. 

The Story So Far

As you might have guessed, things start to go wrong right off the bat. Patrick and Karin begin behaving erratically, and things get so awkward that Bjørn and Louise. However, Patrick and Karin try to explain themselves and make Bjørn and Louise feel guilty in the process. This happens several times throughout the movie, with the implication being that people are so afraid of offending others that they'll put up with almost anything. Since we know this is a horror movie, we're able to figure out that Bjørn and Louise (and Agnes) are in danger, but the Danes are so damn set on being polite that they never pack up and run when they should. 

The Scene

Eventually, the twist arrives: Patrick and Karin are child traffickers, and Abel isn't their son. He's someone they kidnapped from another family — and cut his tongue out in the process. And now they've set their sites on Agnes. Sure enough, Agnes ends up having her tongue cut out in a horrific scene that just keeps going on...and on...and on. Horrified, Bjørn and Louise are taken away, forced to strip, and stoned to death.

Once again, the film makes it pretty clear that Bjørn and Louise could get away from all of this if they put up just the slightest bit of fight. But they remain passive and helpless until the very end. The scene is long, and painful to watch. The fact that arrives at the very end of the film makes it extra shocking because while plenty of disturbing stuff happens along the way, nothing this horrifying happens until we're almost at the conclusion.

Again: I have to wonder who the hell this is for. I'm not saying horror movies have to have a happy ending — they absolutely do not! And I get that "Speak No Evil" deliberately wants to traumatize its audience. But this sequence of events is so nasty that it made me feel cold, chilled to the bone. But if that's what you're looking for, you've come to the right place. 

The Impact (Matt's Take)

My kingdom for more feel-bad standouts like Speak No Evil, please! There's nothing exceptionally surprising about the narrative's trajectory, nor is there any message more complicated than "evil lurks everywhere." Christian Tafdrup gives Nigel Powers another reason not to trust the bloody Dutch, as his Danish travelers find themselves preyed upon merely because they wanted to make vacation friends. There's something psychotic about leaving yourself vulnerable in the middle of nowhere with strangers who just happened to take the same trip you did — Tafdrup uses "Speak No Evil" as a merciless warning. So vicious, so evil, and all thanks to that woeful ending.

Criticisms of 'Speak No Evil" identify the divisive nature about such a cut-and-dry roasting of morality over open flames. We know exactly where things are headed when an unfulfilled husband convinces his wife and child to abandon sense and take their doomed vacation. For some, it's an issue that "Speak No Evil" exists just to push our buttons and murder some innocents. I'd argue the opposite, and applaud Tafdrup for still making me feel like a helpless piece of meaningless garbage despite never hiding his intentions.

In those damning moments when gracious hosts turn into maniac murderers, the film plunges us into inconsolable devastation achieved by movies like "The Poughkeepsie Tapes" and "Hounds Of Love." It's so meaningfully despicable, as a testament to the tension that Tafdrup sustains. We cringe at every time the visitors should bail, and wince with each tossed rock into their skulls. There's no salvation, no reprieve. Only brutality without sense, which I won't forget for some time.