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Review Mute Witness a.k.a. Témoin muet (1995): A thriller that achieves brilliance with minimal means.

genre: thriller, horror






Mute Witness is about Billy Hughes (played by Marina Zudina), a mute FX make up artist who is currently working on a slasher film together with her sister Karen and sister's boyfriend Andy. After a disastrous shooting they decide to call it a day and Billy heads in the building again to get an item she wants to work on at home. However an overzealous caretaker assumes everybody is gone and locks her in. It is here she discovers that one of the crew members is filming his own little project. And then she witnesses something horrible. 

From that moment on it's one major thrill ride with many twists and turns. Some predictable and some very surprising ones but all of them are incredibly effective. The fact that our main character Billy can't speak adds to the tension considerably. Imagine being in danger and wanting to scream but you can't. That alone could cause you an heart attack. On top of that some people including her sister's boyfriend hardly take her serious. Undoubtedly because they are under the impression that someone who can't talk must be stupid as well. Except Billy is highly intelligent and competent and very far removed from your typical scream queen.  

Mute Witness does not waste time to engage the viewer. Every second matters. It has everything. Good buildup of suspense and many thrilling and action packed moments. But above all it has a very healthy dose of humour. While overall the tone should be taken seriously the film isn't afraid to make fun of certain horror conventions. By doing so the viewer gets surprised time and time again since you are made to doubt whether certain events are real or not. Another thing that helps considerably is the setting and use of local actors. The film is entirely shot in a very cold and dark looking Moscow plus some of the actors look exceptionally creepy. Very good casting job. 

Now this does not mean that the film is without flaws. On the contrary, towards the end it almost becomes farcical and perhaps a tad cheesy. Although never to a point that it ruined the movie. Still I personally would not have mind if director Anthony Waller had stuck to the nail biting suspense a little longer. But to be fair it does not detract from the overall viewing experience, so this could be considered nitpicking my side. 

If you haven't watched this one yet and you love thrillers you owe it to yourself to watch this one. It's brilliant. Since it does so much with very little. 


Trivia:

  • Sir Alec Guinness met director Anthony Waller in Hamburg (1985) and was asked if he was willing to do a cameo in his film. Alec Guinness was delighted to do so and even offered to do it for free. Problem was that he was fully booked for a long time so Waller suggested to shoot the next morning in an underground car park.
  • The scene with Sir Alec Guinness was shot nine years before the rest of the film.
  • Lead Marina Zudina is Russian and did not speak English at the time. But since she was portraying a mute American this wasn't a problem. 









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