Silent House REVIEW
Even lamps look better when you're doing a Man At C&A pose.
Release Date: 4 May 2012
15 | 85 minutes
Directors: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett
Shot in one continuous take (or so it appears, starring Next Big Thing Elizabeth Olsen, with Open Water team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau behind the camera, tense twisty chiller Silent House comes with a shed-load of promise in the backyard.
A remake of 2010′s buzzy Uruguayan horror of almost the same name (the US version dropped a “The” from the start of the title) it’s a single-location, real-time, hand-held head-screw of a thriller which for the first half at least delivers on its considerable promise.
Olsen plays Sarah, weekending at her creepy former family home to renovate it for re-sale with her dad (Adam Trese). With no electricity in the house and night approaching fast Sarah and her father are soon plunged into near darkness, while noises in the house hint there may be someone – or something – in there with them. For the most part akin to one long game of hide and seek in the dark, Silent House builds and maintains tension expertly while relying relativity little on plot.
It’s a bravura performance for Olsen, who’s on screen almost the entire time – impressive not only in maintaining emotional integrity without ever descending into cheesy scream-queen territory, but also technically, juggling lighting and make-up cues to enable the action to move forward without noticeable cuts. A gimmick on paper, perhaps, but the technique does bring immediacy and a visceral quality that keeps the audience permanently ill-at ease, and constantly guessing; you see only what at Sarah sees, and experience the revelations of the labyrinthine single location as she does.
Frequently frightening for the first half (including an excellent sequence lit only by the flashes of a Polaroid camera), it’s a shame then, that certain reveals and a histrionic ending (complete with one-liners) push Silent House away from intense indie experiment towards standard US teen fare in the second.
Silent House invokes house-invasioners The Strangers and Ils (Them), with tones of J-horror creepiness and harks of Stephen King’s IT, as well as Hitchcock’s (pseudo) single-shot classic Rope. Though the final throes may irritate this is glossier and more satisfying than the Uruguayan original, providing a violent twist on the haunted house horror. A brave venture, if only half a great film.
Watch the Silent House trailer.
Read more of our film reviews.
Read our review of The Silent House (the original Uruguayan version).