Directed by Kris Kentis, Laura Lau
Starring Elizabeth Olsen
Silent House was sold as a more standard horror film when it was in theaters but it really isn’t that at all. This film is a bit of a tough sell, even while youre watching it it’s hard to buy the proceedings until the end of the film. As you might guess this is acutally an art house horror film and that’s a very different beast than your typical Final Destination or trip to Crystal Lake. Now that’s not to say that Silent House is successful at hitting the goals it sets for itself. The film strives for something different in story and in production and while it is flawed it deserves some credit for even attempting to do something different than what we are getting in the multiplexes.
That’s right you read the headline right, the film stars one of the Olsen twins. A little age has really helped Elizabeth Olsen. While she is attractive she has also developed an earthier real world look to her that separates her from her tabloid past a good bit. The girl still desperately needs to eat a sandwich or two though. Right away I will say that she successfully holds up her end of the bargain for this film. I didn’t expect much from her but she actually does a good job of making us invest in her character and she sells the story when she’s the only one on screen for long periods and there’s no dialogue.
In the film Sarah is helping her father clean out a family farmhouse to be sold. The power to the house has already been cut and it has been boarded up. The two of them are just packing up their remaining belongings. Sarah is uneasy as she goes about her work. She hears noises in the house and even feels a presence outside of her father and Uncle. Eventually she finds herself alone in the house and is suddenly locked inside and being stalked by someone.
It’s at this point in the film where you really have to invest in Sarah as a character to stay with the premise because there are so many dumb decisions being made and odd set design choices that you could laugh the film off. For example Sarah finds the door locks on the outside of the house. So to get out of the house she must find keys. It might just be me but I thought that door locks were installed to keep people out of your house not trapped inside. Sure, she and her father haven’t been to the house for a long time so someone could have possibly reversed the locks on the doors in anticipation of their return but wouldn’t they have noticed this immediately? If they hadn’t noticed it wouldn’t she have at least thought it a little weird as she’s running for her life and all the key holes are on the inside of the house?
There are tons of set design choices like this one that seem to be weak writing or filmmaking until the end of the film when they begin to make a bit of sense. The failing is that you have to work to shrug this stuff off until the explanations are given. There’s not cues set to lead you to believe that the weird characters and set design are supposed to be the way they are until the reveal at the end. In truth this film is more akin to Jacob’s Ladder than something like The Others. After the closing credits roll you’ll look back and consider that the decisions that seemed dumb during the movie were OK after it. A good bit of additional work needed to be done on the script to make all of this play more comfortably. Silent House comes from the directing team that first made headlines with the great Open Water, another art house horror film. Open Water was innovative due to its single set shoot. Nearly the entire film was shot with a couple floating in the ocean with life jackets. That film was incredibly dramatic, moving, and suspenseful and it was done no frills.
So apparently they wanted to play with the medium again with silent House. This time they chose to shoot the entire movie in an unflinching single take single shot. This must have been a massive undertaking especially considering the claustrophobic nature of the house. For most of the running time the camera just sort of loosely floats just behind Sarah panning or widening to reveal other characters or situations. Often this style of shooting is really effective and in the first half of the film offers up some tense scenes. While this film did come from Vudu I may have to take a look at the blu-ray for making of featurettes because the work that must have gone into achieving this one really long shot must have been excessive.
Silent House is most disappointing because the bones of something really great were all there. Olsen surprises with some real acting chops but her co-stars were less impressive. The look and style of the film are exceptional but the script needed a couple of additional passes to make the individual pieces work as well as the entire puzzle did after it was completely put together. Fans of film, the shooting of it in particular, should take a look at the film just to see the single shot style of it. Those who want an entertaining horror film may find this an OK single viewing distraction but as a lasting film it sadly just doesn’t work.