Review: 'Silent House': A Psychological Horror - Thriller In Real Time
The art of cinematic horror has undergone a series of changes through the years. Filmmakers have molded it towards an evolving form of storytelling technicalities to provide elevated fear-factor in all aspects of the craft – editing, visuals, scenery, sound etc. – it’s become a harsh manipulation of various facets for the purpose of making sure moviegoers keep a desperate level of suspense and intrigue.
However, the irony here is ripping off some of those tactics, and you have 'Silent House.' A rehash of a Uruguayan film titled LA CASA MUDA (SILENT HOUSE) – a clever dismantling of perception of how a filmmaker creates an unrelenting horror/thriller in real time.
The ass-kicking momentum here is that 'Silent House' is told in a continuous camera shot, following Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) through her horrifying encounters during a stay at a summer home over the course of a single evening. Wherever Sarah goes the camera follows - as well as the audience - as she tries to untangle herself form a vile web of memories pertaining to her past, while mysterious figure(s) constantly watch over her.
The original movie and story is based on true events that took place in the 1940s in a village in Uruguay. With intensive research on what inspired the Uruguayan piece, directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau are a team familiar to unique projects entailing story complexities and trickery production work (see 2004's 'Open Water').
Mimicking a psyche-based taunt from 'Open Water,' 'Silent House' is a film that has different layers which entail a feeling of intruder, then haunting, which leads to a pretty demented twist. The magic in this three-ring-circus of mental dysfunction of a story, is its 85 minute run, a little over an hour is all one shot! One take! One motion takes you through the entire house, out and back in. For this ONE unique approach alone, I respect what went on in the making of this film.
Inevitability always exists, so as delicious as this film may be with dark tones of one’s misfortune, it was kind of low on scares and visually it was a little too dark for me. When I say ‘dark,’ I don’t’ mean story, I’m talking about the look. There were many scenes in the film which were completely dark and sound-based, which did make you use your imagination during some of Sarah’s screaming and/or mobile moments. Whether or not it was done on purpose we’ll never know, but I did find myself cringing at times wondering what were the images on camera.
Second to the film’s darkness, I think it would have to be Elizabeth Olsen. She’s done her thing within the realm of theater and films – racking up respectable credits – but if I had to point out a “weakness,” it’d have to be scenes where she cried. Hardly panned up-close-and-personal, I noticed her cries resembled laughter for some reason. Her acting was pretty decent – no knock – but her crying needs to be worked on. On more than one occasion I found myself falling in/out of feeling for her, or embracing scenes involving scares. She’s got screen presence, a good sense of where and when her character’s demands are called upon and nice cleavage for added pleasure. I don’t know that she was the “right person” for this role, but it turned out ok. Her emotional roller-coaster happens to be all over seeing as the story calls for it. It’s evenly distributed, and I applaud Olsen on her job as 85% of the film is her on camera mostly reacting instead of communicating.
Overall, with its ups and downs, the film’s a psychological thriller maze of less-is-more meets hide-&-seek in the dark.
Grade: C / Genre: Horror/Thriller / Rated: R / Run Time: 1 Hr. 25 Min.
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese
Director(s): Chris Kentis & Laura Lau
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