“Real fear captured in real time.” Emphasis on the “real time.”
Directed by: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens
MPAA Rating: R
In 2010, a small film from Uruguay named THE SILENT HOUSE made the festival rounds. It left a strong impression on audiences, as it used techniques to make the film seem like one long take for it’s short running time. It received mixed reviews. Many praised the filmmaking involved, but felt the story was shallow or uninvolving. However, none of that has deterred the remake machine from churning out an English-language version known simply as SILENT HOUSE. Can this version fix any of the problems people had with the original?
SILENT HOUSE is told from the point-of-view of a young woman named Sarah, who is assisting her father and uncle with renovating her childhood home so that it can be placed on the market and sold. However, not all is as it seems in the house. It begins with strange noises. Then, her father disappears. And things only get worse from there. What is happening? Are dangerous and violent squatters to blame? Is the house haunted? Or is there something far more horrible and insidious at work?
Needless to say, there are twists in the film. I promise not to spoil anything here, but I challenge you not to guess them within the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie. Barely any attempt is made to keep the audience in the dark as to the true nature of the forces at work. Therefore, instead of the film building suspense and generating tension, the audience is simply bored. They’re waiting for the shoe to drop so they can confirm what they already suspect.
Which is a shame, because the film is actually well-made. The effect of simulating a single, continuous take feels genuine, and at times there is some nice camerawork. The house itself is a creepy location, so kudos to the set designer and props handler. The sound effects editing and music score work very well together to create some nice audio for the film, allowing it to occasionally veer into atmospheric territory. And special mention needs to be given to Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Sarah. She has to carry a majority of the film by herself. It’s a thankless role with her mostly wandering around, hiding, or crying. Yet, she still delivers a credible, believable performance that is deserving of a much better movie.
There’s not much else to say about SILENT HOUSE. While impressive on a technical level, it fails to stir any feelings of fear or dread with it’s bizarre mishandling of the story and characters. It telegraphs every plot point far in advance, making the film a chore to sit through instead of witnessing a horrifying mystery unfurling before your eyes.
SILENT HOUSE opens in theaters nationwide today, and it cannot be recommended by this critic.