"A great little Russian noir pseudo-snuff horror thriller."
One of the coolest horror flicks you've probably never seen and one I've been recommending to people since I first saw it back in 1995 is Anthony Waller's "Mute Witness," a movie that runs the gamut from clever to scary to amusing to heart-wrenching to supremely satisfying before ending things up in a nice tidy package. Sort of a bleak horror version of Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" (only set in Russia instead of NYC) and full of wonderfully nail-biting tension, this is a great little movie.Billy Hughes is an American gal working as the FX supervisor on a low-budget Russian slasher flick who, after staying late one night, witnesses a brutal murder. Normally this would be enough to sustain a low-budget pulse-pounder, but there are several intriguing complications on display; first off, Billy's completely deaf. Sure, she can read your lips and communicate fully...but she can't, y'know...scream when she sees a horrible murder. Throw in the fact that the killing was done in the service of an underground "snuff" syndicate and that poor Billy can't seem to get her sorry self out of the massive, locked studio...and that's just the first 40-some minutes.
Though he hasn't really followed up on the promise of Mute Witness, writer/director Anthony Waller knocks down every target he approaches in this one. There are several truly intense moments, a few handfuls of gooey gore for the horror hounds, a grim and bleak opening that slowly transforms into tongue-in-cheek self-mockery, and an "all in one night" time structure that keeps the movie tight and full of intensity.
The cast is surprisingly strong, despite the proliferation of performers you've probably never seen before, with Marina Zudina the adorable and plucky standout. Eagle-eyed film freaks will get a kick out of who plays the mysterious "head baddie" - but suffice to say that it's a legendary actor who hypnotizes the screen with soft-spoken malice. (Would that he had a few more scenes!) Evan Richards steals a few scenes as the young American filmmaker with more creativity than skill, and the various evildoers are played with effective menace by a collection of unseemly Russian chaps.As much as I hate to employ such tiresome old Movie Critic cliches, the simple truth is that terms like "a crackerjack thriller!" and "an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter!" apply quite capably to a movie like "Mute Witness". And once you see it, you'll have an enthusiastic new response when people ask you "Hmm, what's a good horror movie I've never seen?"