Alistair Petrie, Amelia Crouch and Simon Kunz appear in Eight for Silver by Sean Ellis, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Sean Ellis.

Campfire stories of ghouls, witches, and werewolves have been part of tradition for quite some time now. For centuries, people have huddled together and communally spread these stories of the supernatural around the globe. Even from the early days of cinema, these monsters have been consistently represented through numerous generations behind the camera. As technology gradually advanced, the more intricate, layered, and rapidly produced these genre flicks came too light. Well-known auteurs even hoped onto the trend in recent memory. For example, in Sean Ellis’ Eight For Silver, the renowned British filmmaker takes a beguiling approach to the universal tale of the werewolf curse.

Opening in the murky French trenches at the peak of political conflict during the First World War, Ellis cleverly mixes in elements of the film’s curse into the backdrop of senseless violence. Crossing over 35 years earlier in one impressively edited eye-line jump-cut, the film finally begins to unveil itself and its cast of despicable characters. Combined with a richly-textured period aesthetic, Eight for Silver gloats its high-profile production value at every given moment. And why shouldn’t it? From the corsets, grueling monster makeup, and period decor, Eight For Silver demonstrates a great amount of commitment behind and in-front of the camera.

The same can’t be said about the intentions of the film’s script however. With the exception of the clever twist involved with the route of the werewolf curse, Eight For Silver is a grueling journey from top to bottom. As enjoyable as the film’s commentary gradually evolves — in how the curse originates from upper class poshness and the abhorrent materialism of the colonialist identity — the film lacks what any good campfire story really needs: heart, stakes, and a set of relatable characters. It’s a film that consistently meanders in its self-indulgent motivations, where there’s a certain point within the film where there’s no point in really caring about the characters nor their peril. It doesn’t matter how meticulously coordinated the stunts and gore are, when there’s nothing to emotionally attach oneself to the fetishistic violence. 

A major disappointment of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Eight For Silver is a dreadful dud. A film that not only should have focused more on the children’s perspective and their terror at hand within the narrative, but also should have relied on far less pedantic subplots to pack the lengthy runtime. A gloomy bore that barely makes due with its adequate setup and social commentary, the amount of effort that went into the production of Eight for Silver is unfortunate  There’s nothing wicked about this Werewolf curse redux. It’s all howl and no bite with Sean Ellis’ latest feature endeavour.

Dir: Sean Ellis

Scr. Sean Ellis

Cast: Boyd Holbrook, Kelly Reilly, Alistair Petrie, Roxane Duran

DOP: Sean Ellis

Country: USA/France

Year: 2021

Runtime: 115 minutes

Eight for Silver premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival as part of the Premieres category. The film will screen again virtually on February 1st. Eight for Silver is also currently seeking international distribution.

 

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David Cuevas

David Cuevas is a writer, reporter, and the official festivals editor (US/Canada) for FilmHounds Magazine. In his spare time, you can find him watching a bunch of movies while contemplating on his own existence.

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