Netflix movie The Silence follows a family trying to survive an apocalyptic outbreak of monsters. Called "Vesps," these flying bat-creatures hunt by sound, so the only way to survive is to stay absolutely silent. This is easier for the Andrews family, who all learned sign language after Ally (Kiernan Shipka) lost her hearing in an accident, but not everyone survives to the movie's ending.
It's impossible to read the synopsis for The Silence without thinking of last year's runaway horror hit A Quiet Place, which also featured monsters that hunt by sound, a deaf daughter and a family that had an advantage of knowing sign language, and a house out in the countryside that they have to defend. However, The Silence actually predates A Quiet Place, being based on a 2015 novel by Tim Lebbon. The film was directed by John R. Leonetti and also stars Stanley Tucci, Miranda Otto, and John Corbett.
After realizing that the creatures on the news are attracted to sound, the Andrews family wisely decide to get out of the city and head somewhere a bit quieter. Following the devastating losses of Uncle Glenn (Corbett) and the family's pet dog on the road, they eventually find a house to hole up in (after the owner unfortunately becomes a snack for the local Vesps). Just when it seems like they're safe from the reptilian monster birds, however, a new danger arrives in the form of a cult called The Hushed, who cut their tongues out as tribute to the new world order. Let's break down The Silence's ending, and what it reveals about the movie's overall themes.
The Hushed Represent Adaptation and Evolution
They might just seem like a typical apocalyptic cult, but the Reverend (Billy MacLellan) and his followers, The Hushed, actually represent one of the major themes of not only The Silence, but also A Quiet Place and Netflix's other recent release, Bird Box. All three movies introduce a new predator into the ecosystem and show how humanity adapts in order to survive. In Bird Box, for example, we saw Sandra Bullock's character raising her children to always use blindfolds outside, so as not to see the monsters who kill simply by being witnessed.
The Abbotts in A Quiet Place and the Andrews family in The Silence both adapt by communicating through sign language, but The Silence's cult of The Hushed have a different approach in mind. They cut out their tongues, knowing that their voices will only get them killed in this new world, and the Reverend unsettlingly reveals that they're interested in capturing Ally because she's "fertile." Now, while the odds are heavily in favor of the Reverend only wanting a "fertile" teenage girl because he's a creepy rapist, that wording is significant because it ties in with The Silence's themes of evolution. When a former apex predator is confronted by a new apex predator, one of the best chances at survival is to reproduce and replenish their numbers. Unfortunately, the Vesps have a bit of an unfair advantage in that regard.
The Silence's Ending Reveals How the Vesps Caused an Apocalypse
As with a lot of apocalypse movies, one of the first questions that people ask is how the might of the United States military was so helpless in the face of, in this case, a bunch of mini-pterodactyls. After escaping from a cave system where they have been evolving for thousands of years, the Vesps quickly cover the country in devastating numbers, slaughtering entire cities full of people. It's the kind of feat that would require trillions of Vesps, which seems like more than could be feasibly contained in a single cave system.
This is explained in more detail in the book, but the Vesp takeover was facilitated by the fact that they breed extraordinarily quickly - laying eggs in the bodies of their victims that hatch rapidly. Because of this, the Vesp plague spreads far more rapidly and lethally than a zombie plague; whereas a zombie can only create one new zombie at a time, a Vesp can lay a dozen eggs and then move on to lay a dozen more, so their numbers quickly and exponentially multiply. The movie reveals the Vesps' breeding strategy at the very end, showing a recently killed wolf where a Vesp has laid translucent eggs - the babies inside already well-formed.
The Silence's Ending Is All About Survival of the Fittest
The Silence, A Quiet Place, and Bird Box are interesting because they all reframe something that would have traditionally been thought of as a disability - blindness or deafness - as a key survival trait that gives people an evolutionary advantage. Ally is better suited to survive in the new world because she's used to communicating without sound, and the final scene of her and Rob (Dempsey Bryk) silently hunting the Vesps in the woods offers hope for a future where humans can, if not wipe out the Vesps, then at least survive alongside them.
Also key to the ending is the Andrews family heading North to The Refuge, where the Vesps are less numerous because they are not well adapted to the cold. Evolution takes quite a long time, and in the interim humanity's best chance at survival is simply to relocate to areas where their new predators don't venture. If humanity can first adapt to the violent change in the ecosystem, then evolution will follow.