Silent House, The (2011)
Reviewed by Kalebson
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens
Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
“If people would just do as I say, there wouldn’t be any problems, would there?”
There is a lot of buzz around Park City, Utah, involving The Silent House, the “almost didn’t make it” late entry into this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Directed by the team behind Open Water, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, The Silent House is a remake of an Uruguayan film of the same title. This 86-minute scare-fest was filmed in one continuous shot like the original with some unflinching cinematography. Not yet having the opportunity to have seen Gustavo Hernandez’s version, one cannot compare the two other than to say that nearly every still for the two appear nearly identical. Sadly, although the film is well shot, some weak acting, Shyamalan-sized plot holes, and too many “by the book” scare tactics really lessen the intended effect of the flick.
Way back on November 7th, 2007, Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, Mary Kate and Ashley’s younger sister), along with her nosy and controlling father, John (Adam Trese), and her unsettling Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are working to renovate their old family home in an attempt to sell it. The house, sitting void of any life for years, has no electricity, forcing the three to use battery powered lanterns as they work in this pig sty. After happening upon some mold within the wall behind the refrigerator, the brothers head to the basement to see just how far the fungus has spread, leaving Sarah alone upstairs.
While wrapping some dining-room chairs in plastic, candy apple-loving Sarah hears mysterious creaking noises coming from upstairs and calls on her cohorts so that they can investigate. During the search her domineering father finds some suspicious looking Polaroid photos lying on one of the beds and instructs Sarah to stay in her room while he inspects the remainder of the second floor. A booming thunderous sound comes from the hallway, and that's when the terror begins.
On the good side of the fence, The Silent House is home to more than its fair share of shocking scares and things going bump in the night. However, as previously mentioned, there is a severe lack of acting talent present here that proves distracting during such an ambitious project. The fact that these three are supposed to be in the same family is a real issue as you feel no form of compassion between them. Olsen has the burden of carrying the entire cast on her shoulders as the brothers are nothing more than cardboard bickering versions of each other. Olsen does a meritable job at doing so as she is the primary target of the camera, appearing truly terrified throughout the second and third acts. Some special credit should also go to the person holding the camera to capture these frequent moments of terror as they arise.
Unfortunately, no matter how fine of a performance an actor can give, nothing can keep you from the horrors of The Silent House's plot holes and painful dialogue, both of which are plentiful within the second half of the film. Of course all of the movie's events lead up to a plot twist which comes crashing down at the very end. By the time the credits roll, you'll have only one question -- “Where the hell did that come from?”
All of the film's shortcomings are most likely caused by the director not being able to shout the word “CUT!” while filming. Though, if you watch very closely, you will see a couple of unmistakable edits. It's also very likely that filming a movie in this style made it harder for the actors to really sink deep into their characters. Who knows?
Still, even with some massive plot holes, poor dialogue, and cheap creeps, it isn’t all bad; but by no means is this a masterpiece. Any director with the guts to do an 86-minute single take film deserves some applause at the very least. I also cannot say that I did not enjoy myself watching others scream and jump out of their seats more than once. This will likely be picked up by some distributor in the near future, slapped with a PG-13, and thrown out to be seen by a larger audience. Probably in limited fashion. If you get the chance to check it out, there are definitely worse ways to spend an hour and a half of your life.
Don’t be scurred!
2 1/2 out of 5
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