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Mute Witness

This exhilarating thriller by first-time British director Anthony Waller is a witty and technically assured exercise in cinematic sleight of hand and audience manipulation. The terrific opening establishes Waller’s intentions to brilliant effect. A woman alone in an apartment is viciously attacked by a knife-wielding psycho. The scene is filmed in the manner of a standard slasher movie, except that the woman’s death throes are prolonged to the point of parody. It transpires that all we have watched is a scene being filmed in a Moscow studio. After this jokey wind up, Waller proceeds to keep his audience on the edge of their seats by piling on the suspense and leavening the sweaty proceedings with lashings of black humour.

The dilapidated Moscow studio has been hired by young American director Andy (Evan Richards), who is accompanied by his girlfriend Karen (Fay Ripley). Karen’s sister Billie (Marina Sudina) is the mute special-effects make-up artist on the movie. Locked in the studio one night, Billie witnesses what she believes to be the making of a ‘snuff’ movie. Unable to call for help, she is chased through the labyrinthine building by the perpetrators of the crime, who turn out to be colleagues from Andy’s film crew. What follows is a long night of terror and fear involving the Russian Mafia, the police, blood-soaked knives, body parts in bags, and the trickery that comes with the suspense thriller at its Hitchcockian best.

Germany-U.K.-Russia, 1994.
96 mins.

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