‘The Silencing’ is a 2020 action-thriller film directed by Robin Pront and starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Annabelle Wallis. The film follows the story of Rayburn Swanson, a reformed hunter who works with the local Sheriff in a small Minnesota town to hunt down a notorious serial killer. In the process, Rayburn hopes to find answers about the mysterious disappearance of his daughter from years ago. Given the film’s premise, which seems ripped out of newspaper headlines, viewers might be inclined to believe that ‘The Silencing’ is based on a true story.
The Inspiration Behind The Silencing
No, ‘The Silencing’ is not based on a true story. The film is based on an original story from screenwriter Micah Ranum. The film tells a fictional story that was crafted by Ranum and follows the beats of a traditional small-town murder mystery. In the film, Rayburn Swanson is a divorced alcoholic who works as the caretaker of a Wildlife sanctuary in Minnesota. However, Rayburn soon becomes embroiled in the hunt for a vicious serial killer who may have kidnapped his daughter years ago.
The film’s premise does not directly draw inspiration from any particular true event or incident. However, the primary conflict of the movie stems from a serial killer targeting and hunting down teenage girls for sport. In reality, serial killer Robert Hansen, aka the Butcher Baker, was known for hunting and killing women in Anchorage, Alaska. Despite the superficial similarity between Hansen and the killer in ‘The Silencing,’ the latter’s makers have not confirmed whether Hansen’s killing spree even remotely inspired the film. However, Hansen’s real-world crimes stand as evidence of the plausibility of the movie’s plot.
Although ‘The Silencing’ is a murder mystery, the movie is primarily a character-driven story of individuals seeking to right their mistakes while trying to do right by their loved ones. The movie’s protagonist, Rayburn Swanson, is deeply affected by his daughter’s disappearance, and the relationship between the father and daughter forms the movie’s emotional core. At the same time, Sheriff Gustafson is also battling her own internal demons while trying to solve the string of heinous serial killings in Cutler County.
In their search for the killer, Sheriff Gustafson and Rayburn make morally ambiguous choices that add further layers to their characters, making them human and relatable because of their flawed worldviews. In an interview, director Robin Pront stated that the character-driven storytelling of Micah Ranum’s screenplay attracted him to the project.
“It’s a murder mystery that’s very character-driven. That’s what interested me when I read the script for the first time. It’s an interesting, morally ambiguous thriller that I was keen to make to the big screen,” Pront said speaking to Pop Culturist. In a separate interview, Pront stated that he enjoys true crime documentaries and darker stories. As a result, he likely drew some inspiration from real-world crimes and true crime documentaries while directing the movie. Pront also stated he wanted to explore the dark side of humanity through the movie, which is reflected in some of the choices the main characters make.
Ultimately, ‘The Silencing’ is not based on a true story. It is a fictional story set in a small town and revolves around morally complex characters trying to solve a murder mystery. The dark and vile nature of the murders might remind viewers of some real-life serial killer cases, but the film’s heart lies in the emotional nature of Rayburn’s quest. Moreover, the emotional nature of Rayburn’s relationship with his missing daughter also lends a touch of realism to the story.
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