Silent House (2012)
Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
Distributed by Open Road Films
In Chris Kentis and Laura Lau's English-language remake Silent House, we meet Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), her father, John (Adam Trese), and her uncle, Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) as they work on cleaning out the family’s mysterious and creepy old house in the middle of nowhere so that they can sell it to a potential new owner.
However, the clean-up job isn’t going exactly to plan as things start to freak out the already somewhat skittish Sarah while John and Peter venture off to try to figure out how extensive a newly-discovered mold problem is throughout the walls of the house. When Sarah is left alone by the light of battery-powered lanterns and flashlights to put away some furniture, she suddenly begins to hear strange noises coming from upstairs that the men in her life dismiss as just normal 'old house noises.'
But when Sarah ventures upstairs to begin packing up her old room, that's when things in Silent House begin to kick up a notch and the noises begin to get a lot louder and far more violent sounding than just a house 'settling.' Sarah soon discovers not only does the rest of her family seem to be gone, she’s also been trapped and locked inside somehow and, quite possibly, isn't alone either. Soon the race is on for Sarah as she tries her best to make it out of the house and escape the danger that's haunting her every move.
If you follow genre news at all, then you probably already know that Silent House is the remake of a 2010 Uruguayan film La Casa Muda as well as the highly anticipated (and long overdue) follow-up from the filmmaking duo behind 2003’s intense lost-at-sea thriller Open Water. And while it's true that the two films are incredibly different (one set in an ocean, one set inside a house), there are a lot of similarities between the two, proving once again that both Kentis and Lau know exactly how to evoke some seriously powerful tension and, frankly, need to be doing more films within the genre world.
The foreboding and broken-down dwelling even becomes its own character of sorts in Silent House, almost like the house itself is trying to keep Sarah confused, panicked and contained within its walls. The setting is incredibly effective with limited light used throughout its narrow halls so it's incredibly easy for the viewer to get just as confused and paranoid as Sarah seems to throughout the movie. That disorientation, coupled with Olsen’s brilliant performance, makes for an engaging and heart-pounding experience that will no doubt have you holding your breath alongside our heroine's every move as each scene seems to escalate her fear and panic more than the one before it.
Silent House has been highly publicized as a 'one-take' movie, and while it is certainly quite an achievement to pull off as a filmmaker to shoot an 85-minute flick without a break, I feel like maybe the gimmick held Kentis and Lau's efforts back a bit. The reason movies have cut scenes and edits in them is so that audiences can get a break from seeing the same images repeated over and over, and it allows for tension lighteners as well- both of which are nowhere to be found in Silent House. So while it’s incredibly easy to find yourself immersed in Sarah's terrifying journey, it's also easy to see how some viewers might get bored watching Silent House.
Something else that will no doubt challenge audiences is the ending of Silent House, which is one of those things that you can either get behind or you can't- there's no middle ground here at all. And while I would never dream of ruining an ending for anyone, the 'reveal' about the root of Sarah's terror over the course of the 80-plus moments that precede it is definitely polarizing and will remind a lot of fans of another recent horror flick with a crazy twist ending that gave fans a whole lot to debate after its release a few years back.
But despite its flaws, Kentis and Lau still manage to evoke some serious tension and suspense throughout Silent House, and fans should show up more for Olsen's haunting performance than the 'one-cut' gimmick the marketing for the flick keeps focusing on. Much like their previous effort on Open Water, the filmmaking pair once again prove you don't need a huge budget, crazy effects or a star-studded cast when creating a truly terrifying tale. While the ending is sure to irk quite a few horror fans out there, Silent House is still an incredible thriller elevated by both Olsen's acting and some of the most imaginative camera work to be used in feature filmmaking as of late.
3 1/2 out of 5