Monster of the Week: Vesp (Netflix’s The Silence)

Be Quiet or You’re Dead! That’s the basic synopsis of Netflix’s The Silence (2019). Directed by John Leonetti who is no slouch to horror, having been the director for Annabelle (2014) and the cinematographer for The Conjuring (2013) and Insidious 2 (2013), the film is often compared to A Quiet Place which was released to high praise one year prior. While it may have received mixed reviews, the cinematography of The Silence and its main antagonists, the bat-like vesps, deserve a worthy nod from any horror fan for the exceptionally rendered FX sequences that depict the creatures and expertly integrate them into the film’s universe.

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One of the concept designs for the vesps, by artist Jordan Nieuwland (http://mrxfx.com)

Like most horror monster adaptations that spawn from literary works, the vesps went through many rounds of conceptual designs, culminating in Jordan Nieuwland’s final rendering, brought to life onscreen by the visual effects team at Mr X (Penny Dreadful, the Strain). The final product is a bat-like subterranean creature with detailed anatomy that travels in swarms to hunt down their prey through sound and devour them in a frenzy of razor-sharp claws and teeth. Think: flying piranhas. The film, based on Tim Lebbon’s 2015 novel of the same name, follows the post-apocalyptic travels of a family as they flee the recently released vesps into the hopefully safe areas of Southern Canada. Like any good zombie movie, the true antagonists of the film turn out to be their fellow humans. But despite this moral commentary, what I and hopefully you are interested in are the monsters themselves – so let’s take a look!

Conversion. Vesps are obviously a near match to a D&D bat, but with slightly increased damage due to their more prominent teeth and claws. The stats for the mosquito-like stirges round out the basic solitary vesp, but it’s a vesp swarm which presents the more interesting monster. Just like a solitary bat, a swarm of the creatures serves as an excellent template, with beefed up stats and hitpoints to reflect the higher lethality of the species. Unlike bats however, the vesps hunt more aggressively and as a single group, against larger opponents, making their abilities much stronger by comparison. Whereas bats eat insects or in the case of vampire bats, target resting animals, vesps hunt down mobile animals fully capable of putting up a fight. More predatory offensive capabilities, and their ability to subdue large prey, as seen in various scenes of the film, are the reason for their overall increased challenge rating, scores and an inclusion of an envelop ability.

But what do you think, is a swarm of vesps enough to strike fear into the hearts of your players? Or will defeating the winged critters simply drive them batty from the efforts? Download my rendition of  the Silence’s vesps in JPEG or pdf format for your campaign and have a swarm of teeth and claws descend upon them in a hungering frenzy!)

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