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Sean Ellis/Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Eight for Silver (2021)

“Eight for Silver” is a period horror film in more than one sense: It’s a werewolf picture set in the 19th century; and it’s the type of quality midbudget Gothic horror indie distributors used to pick up from Europe and that you never knew existed until happening upon their sun-faded sleeves (complete with Worldvision Enterprises logo) on the shelves of rental stores. Those went near extinct as the Coppola “Dracula” and the Branagh “Frankenstein” jumped the shark in the early 1990s, and with good reason. First came the wave of high concept meta-horror, and then low-budget “Blair Witch” types flooded our streaming-killed-the-video-star present day.

"Eight” opens as a silver bullet is extracted along with more conventional projectiles from a soldier wounded on the WWI battlefield, then it fast-rewinds to 35 years earlier when baron Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) commits genocide on the Romani living on his land. Although he extinguishes them, the Romani leave behind a curse that apparently turns the befallen into feral animals. But the townsfolk don’t quite connect the dots, and they look to an outsider, the good pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook), for guidance.

While the racists get their comeuppance here, the film’s depiction of Gypsy black magic and stroking of xenophobia don’t cut the mustard of today’s standards of political correctness – which may be yet another explanation for how Gothic horror lost favor. That aside, the seriousness of “Eight for Silver” is undermined by the cheap-looking special effects; the ones involving props and makeup aren’t nearly as bad, but none of the digital compositions look remotely realistic. The ending also presents a gaping plot hole. It’s not readily apparent what the Sundance programming team saw in a film that would have otherwise opened on 1,000 screens and vanished after one week.

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