Silent as the Grave Image

Silent as the Grave

By Alan Ng | August 21, 2023

Directors Dan Gremley and Brad Podowski pay homage to film noir with their neo-noir feature, Silent as the Grave. I mean, the title alone suggests as much, right? Michael Kunicki stars as Chris Nowak, an aspiring documentarian who just debuted his first feature to a less-than-packed theater. The dejected filmmaker turns to his pregnant wife, Naomi (Isabella Alonso), for comfort and encouragement.

Not knowing his next step, the couple goes to Chris’ family’s home for Christmas dinner. When Silent Night comes on the radio, Chris’ aunt storms off because the song reminds her of Uncle Edgar, who was murdered years ago. What’s upsetting is that the killer was never found, and one day, the investigation just ended. Needing to find closure for the Nowak family, Chris’ mother, Barbara (Charlisa Anderson), bankrolls her son’s next documentary, provided it’s about the death of his uncle.

Chris agrees, and as soon as you can say action, he is visited by a gang of goons telling Chris to stop poking around places he doesn’t belong. This includes his uncle’s gravesite, where a mysterious stranger has been leaving flowers for years. After getting a severe beating, Naomi warns Chris that the baby is coming soon and the last thing she wants is to raise their child alone. But he ignores her and becomes obsessed with finding the killer.

“…visited by a gang of goons telling Chris to stop poking around places he doesn’t belong.”

Silent as the Grave is that little noir that could. Writer Podowski takes the narrative of a documentarian who just completed a documentary on film noir and carries you gently into the genre. The story cleverly turns the drunk noir private investigator into a wholesome neo-noir family man/filmmaker. Kunicki carries the bulk of the emotional center with a strong cast of emerging actors backing him up. Chris is just an average Joe suckered into treading the dark past of his family and town. He slowly becomes consumed with finding answers, even if it means getting the s**t beat out of him.

It’s incredible how good the movie looks on such a meager budget. A lot of that success has to do with the cinematography. Resources were spent on getting top-quality cameras, and director of photography Kuba Zelazek absolutely nails the right tone visually, often shifting from reality to a dreamlike state to the mirky past. I’m also absolutely impressed with how the noir aspect of this low-budget thriller sneaks up on you. The Chinatown-esque bakery scandal consuming this small town is cleverly done. Before you know it, the dark past of the Nowak family unravels before our eyes.

There’s a great deal of fun in the cast of characters Chris winds up interviewing throughout Silent as the Grave. Who can he trust? What is being hidden from him? Can he handle uncovering the truth? Can he keep his marriage intact? What about his sanity?

For screening information, visit the Silent as the Grave official website.

Silent as the Grave (2023)

Directed: Dan Gremley, Brad Podowski

Written: Brad Podowski

Starring: Michael Kunicki, Isabella Alonso, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Silent as the Grave Image

"…a great deal of fun..."

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