Going into Eight for Silver, I was intrigued… The only image upon the Sundance site didn’t convey much information besides it being a period piece, but the below synopsis described something like a modern yet original version of Universal’s Monster Classics, particularly The Wolfman and Frankenstein. For better or worse, as a big fan of those, I was all in.
Synopsis for Eight for Silver
In the late nineteenth century, brutal land baron Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) slaughters a Roma clan, unleashing a curse on his family and village. In the days that follow, the townspeople are plagued by nightmares, Seamus’s son Edward (Max Mackintosh) goes missing, and a boy is found murdered. The locals suspect a wild animal, but visiting pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) warns of a more sinister presence lurking in the woods.
The film clearly has a lot of passion put in, from the themes it uses to some interesting (if clashing) bits of internal lore and worldbuilding, yet overall it struggles to maintain consistency. For example, both the film’s message and the characters seem quite undercooked. Boyd Holbrook is likeable enough as McBride, a pathologist in a time where they were uncommon. He is hunting down an infection he’s seen before; but like the other characters, we don’t get to know their personalities, just their general goals. McBride wants to ensure this doesn’t happen again and wants to find the cause to this werewolf infection…
We do get answers, eventually, but they aren’t completely fleshed out either, which is a shame. Eight for Silver has some wonderful touches to develop its world, the Roma clan (a classic horror trope straight from the original Wolfman) happens to have the 30 pieces of silver Judas Iscariot received for betraying Christ. The film also features a wholly unique werewolf design I don’t think I’ve seen in film before, imagine David Cronenberg’s own personal take on the Big Bad Wolf. During the Q and A session post viewing, the director described the design as being a combination of sea life, a wolf and a human, and it shows.
The film also seems to want to make some anti-imperialist statements, which I applaud, but it seems scared to make them stick. I respect the choice to make the inciting Roma massacre be shot from a distance, taking care to not glorify it and turn a serious topic into grindhouse fare (no disrespect to grindhouse, but tonal accuracy is important for genre filmmaking).
Spending that time mostly in close ups of the horror would be distracting, gratuitous and gross. Unfortunately, one solid decision does not outweigh other choices in the filmmaking. The inciting incident is a horrifying massacre that unleashes a vengeful curse on the murders. Yet the film wants us to sympathize and root for the family of the worst of the murderers, who condones the slaughter of a few dozen people just so he can gain another acre or so of land unimpeded. All of that, on top of the fact we don’t get any reason to emotionally connect to anyone but McBride leads to a lack of concern for any of the victims.
While Eight for Silver has some wonderful creature design and some clever world-building, I would say wait for a rental of this film once it gets distribution. It’s got enough interesting elements for a decent midnight screening at home, but may not resonate with everyone.