If you can’t have good actors, have a good story. If you can’t have good actors or a good story, have good effects. If you can’t have good actors, a good story or good effects, have a good gimmick.
And when all else fails, have boobs – lots and lots of boobs.
The horror genre has a long history of using gimmicks to get people into the theaters. Most likely, these saw their halcyon days back in the late 1950s but even today, we appreciate the lure of the gimmick – whether it is the earnest whisper of “Based on a true story,” or the promise of terrifying found footage. The latter – the found footage film – is everyone’s darling these days but even it’s starting to show signs of wear; much like a bow-legged streetwalker after the fleet’s been in port for two weeks.
How about a real-time horror movie?
It seems to work for “Silent House”.
Shot in 2010 and a remake of the Uruguayan film, “La Casa Muda”, the film follows – quite literally – Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) as she, her father (Adam Trese) and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) try to renovate and pack up their creepy old house so they can sell it. Of course, you can’t have a big, dark creepy house in the middle of nowhere without strange things being afoot… and afoot they are.
Directed by Chris Kentis (who wrote and directed “Open Water”) and Laura Lau (cinematographer and with Kentis on “Open Water”), “Silent House” takes the unusual tack – but one also used in the original film – of shooting in what looks like a single continuous shot. While many of you out there may shrug it off as no big deal, here it’s an effective tool for the film maker in taking what would have been a fairly pedestrian film and making something different and entertaining. How does this help? It essentially forces the audience into the shoes of Sarah as she creeps through the house, searching for answers and a way out. There are no cutaways from the tension or her situation. It effectively immerses you in the situation. However, this method isn’t a cure all. Much like 2010’s “Buried” when you’re focused on essentially one character in an enclosed space, there’s only so much you can do. Eventually, watching our heroine feel her way through the house gets to feeling a little tiresome. Granted, there is more to the story, it just seems to take a while to get there.
Performance-wise, the cast does well – both Trese and Stevens do exactly what’s required of them for their roles. Olsen, however, is the one that does all the heavy lifting. Initially, I didn’t make the connection between her and her more famous twin siblings. I think if I had, my expectations would have been far lower than they already were. I found myself pleasantly surprised though. I am not familiar with her turn in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” but here she does the genre no harm and actually carries the movie well.
“Silent House” is a perfectly serviceable date movie, perfect for when you absolutely, positively have to have your date claw your arm or jump into your lap in a public place. Genre fans should have a good time discussing the merits of the film but may find it just a technically beautiful film and not much else. Gorehounds will be disappointed with the blood and, sorry, there are no boobs.
It already has a pretty good gimmick.