Sean Ellis directs ‘brutal take on a classic horror monster’ in Eight for Silver (Image: Sean Ellis/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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One of the most effective messages from a horror film is always going to be that you reap what you sow.

Beginning with a gory conflict at the Somme during World War One, Eight for Silver reveals a bizarre discovery in the wounds of an injured soldier.

Returning to England for a discussion of this revelation, we then travel back 35 years to 1881 to the origins of this curious moment.

A ruthless land baron named Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) leads a brutal culling of a Roma community who carry a valid claim to some of the land he seeks to remove them from.

The massacre that follows, however, leaves a curse on Seamus’s family when his young son Edward (Max Mackintosh) goes missing, the nearby town becomes plagued by disturbing dreams, and then further bloody occurrences occur.

Consequently, visiting pathologist John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) has a more disturbing idea of what is occurring and leads a dangerous exploration of the truth at the heart of the curse, along with a reckoning that awaits the Laurent family and the community they lead.

Alistair Petrie, Amelia Crouch and Simon Kunz appear in Sean Ellis' horror-thriller, Eight for Silver
(Image: Sean Ellis/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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With an intriguing and ominous opening half-hour that promises something more unsettling than what is delivered, Eight for Silver is still an entertaining chiller from director Sean Ellis.

Evoking a harsh realism that is also entrenched in contemporary prejudices and uncompromising violence, Ellis’ chief feats are in the downright horrifying opening sequences, with a particularly haunting long-distance shot of the massacre of the Roma community.

Yet, the injustice and evil of this act are what comes back to haunt the nearby townsfolk as an indescribable evil appears to invade their very psyches and cause paranoia and hysteria. The misty visuals from Ellis' own forbidding cinematography also serve to add to this sense of infection across the townsfolk.

Despite these more intriguing elements, the film then falls into a more generic but still enjoyable monster flick, complete with its very own Van Helsing-lite figure in Boyd Holbrook’s character. Thankfully, the star sells his part and makes a likeable and haunted hero here.

Elsewhere, Petrie is his usually excellent self when it comes to portraying a surly authoritarian, while Kelly Reilly is disappointingly given less to do as his devastated but resilient wife, Isabelle.

Sean Ellis, director of horror-thriller Eight for Silver
(Image: Jacob Yakob/Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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Sadly, the film becomes a bit too dragged-out and the pacing in the middle sags somewhat. It is easy to wonder if proceedings would have been much more effective with a sliced-down runtime.

The ending especially feels like it should tie together various plot threads more and feel more rewarding than it does, instead feeling telegraphed from the beginning and leaving a sense that we are just going through the motions.

Yet, amidst its shortcomings, Eight for Silver is still an entertaining watch that does wear its themes on its sleeve, proving to be a solid entry in the modern horror genre.

Verdict

Eight for Silver is a brutal take on a classic horror monster from director Sean Ellis, but ultimately proves overlong and says less than it promises in its fiery opening half-hour.

Eight for Silver premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2021 but does not currently have a UK release date.