Review: Silent House
PLOT: While cleaning out their summer home in hopes to sell the property, Sarah and her father find that they may not be alone. When she hears someone moving throughout the dark home Ė there is conveniently no light inside thanks to board up windows Ė she finds that her father has disappeared. Desperate to get out before the stranger gets to her, the young woman tries to survive a series of frightening attacks. I could tell you more, butÖ
Warning: If you have yet to see the original Spanish film and you know nothing about SILENT HOUSE, there are spoilers briefly hinted at throughout this review. However, I have made every effort to not give much of anything away.
At the heart of the new horror thriller SILENT HOUSE is Elizabeth Olsen. In the film she plays a young woman who is working with her father, clearing out their old summer home. The windows have been boarded up to prevent strangers from getting in and much of the inside has suffered water damage. Sarah (Olsen), her father John (Adam Trese) and his brother Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are working to clear everything out in hopes of selling the damaged property. However, when the two brothers begin to fight, Peter takes off leaving father and daughter alone. As she wanders the dark rooms she hears the distinct sound of someone moving upstairs. She soon comes to realize there is somebody else possible lurking in the dark corridors.
For the first hour or so of SILENT HOUSE I was mostly hooked. Co-directors Laura Lau and Chris Kentis create an oftentimes frightening sense of dread. The filmís gimmick - it is shot as a single take (with probably a couple of hidden cuts) - helps raise the suspense of the situation. The camera follows Sarah around the house making the dark rooms and hallways as much a character as those wandering inside. Part haunted house and part home invasion, the film can work on a serious fear inducing level. In many ways the entire movie plays like the final confrontation in most slasher films. It feels very similar to when the leading lady finds all the bodies and must try and survive against whatever is after her. The movie conjures this thrill and anxiety well enough that it might have been nice to leave well enough alone, without trying to explain everything in the final few scenes.
If you have watched the original Spanish language version LA CASA MUDA, there are few surprises here. The series of events plays out nearly the same way. Yet for those of you that havenít, to go into detail regarding the final few moments would give too much away. With that, I will say that there are answers to a few questions, even if the outcome is somewhat obvious and slightly disappointing. Several clues fill you in as to the nature of the attack and who is the attacker. When all is said and done, the final frame lessened the impact of the first hour. I didnít mind the not-so-subtle hints that came up during that time involving an old friend of Sarahís (Julia Taylor Ross) and some mysterious photographs. Yet the climax hasnít near the excitement and impact that came before.
Even with a less than stellar ending, it was hard not to be a little taken in by this horror show. Raising the bar was the incredible performance given by Elizabeth Olsen. She is completely and utterly likable as the young girl in distress. She manages to pull off everything she is asked to do. Even when Sarah makes a questionable move, it is hard not to root for her damsel in distress. This is the type of performance that will resonate with genre audiences. It is not a surprise at all with this and MARCY MARTHA MAY MARLENE that the actress is receiving some well deserving high praise. Herís is one of the most exciting faces in the genre in recent years as she possesses all the qualities that make for a terrific leading lady. Letís hope that once she goes mainstream she will be offered better scripts that will return her to the horror genre.
SILENT HOUSE is technically a interesting film as well. Even if the filmmakers may cheat a bit by hiding a cut here or there, it is still well-executed as a single shot horror feature. The atmosphere of the dark and spooky house and a fantastic performance from its leading lady make for a decent thriller. As far as the ending, some may appreciate it more than I, but it just seems like filmmakers are overly fond of explaining the mysterious events. The last half hour isnít nearly as unsatisfactory as a couple of other recent horror misses, but it certainly brings the thrill ride quality down. The end result takes place in real time (88 minutes to be exact) and it is said to be inspired by a true story. Either way, thanks to an effective gimmick and a wonderful leading lady, itís not the worst way to spend 88 minutes in a darkened theatre, or better still in the comfort of your own home.