REVIEW: ‘Silent House’

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) seeks out the secrets of the "Silent House".
Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) seeks out the secrets of the "Silent House".

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.

Silent House (2011)
  • Runtime:86 minutes
  • Directors: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
  • Writers:
    Gustavo Hernández
     
    Laura Lau
     
    Oscar Estévez
     
  • Actors:
    Sarah
    Elizabeth Olsen
    John
    Adam Trese
    Peter
    Eric Sheffer Stevens
    Sophia (as Julia Taylor Ross)
    Julia Chan
    Stalking Man
    Adam Barnett
    Little Girl
    Haley Murphy

Joe Lopez
Dubbed, "TerrorScribe" by a former editor, Joe made the conversion to horror sometime in the mid-2000s. Little did he know he'd favored the genre all of his life. When not struggling with short stories, he provided genre film reviews for local entertainment sites and later genre sites who could suffer his cynical views.

It was that same cynicism - and some might say hubris - that lead him to have a brief flirtation with filmmaking. His first two efforts, "Annotated" and "Antes Que Seja Tarde (Before It's Too Late)" both premiered at a local H.P. Lovecraft film festival. A third short, "Survivor Girl" proved to be his undoing though plans are in the works to revived the cursed project.

Born and raised in Dallas, TX., Joe now resides in a small Texas town. Statistics say more dead bodies turn up in small towns that big cities... though he claims to have NOTHING to do with that.
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2 Replies to “REVIEW: ‘Silent House’”

  1. Hey!
    I just stumbled across this great webseries I think you would likely really love! It is a little Paranormal Activity but with a cute teenage girl instead of a cute not-teenage couple. And I actually think it is scary! But I am kind of a wuss. The episodes are super short (love that!) and the lead is completely adorable. The show is called The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and this is the first thing I saw- the trailer for it, I guess:
    http://youtu.be/Pcmvs82V1uU
    Check it out and let me know if I am right that you will like it!

  2. Hi Joe

    Nice review. I saw the original but haven’t yet seen this remake. The original was… ok.

    My name is Clive Tonge. I am a (struggling) indie horror film maker.

    I’ve just finished post-prod on my new horror short called Sunday Best.

    Its awaiting replies from various festivals and has been getting some nice reviews from indie horror reviewers.

    Is there any way you could/would like to review it for your site?

    If so let me know and I’ll email you a link to the full film.

    Here is the website & trailer – http://sundaybest.moonfruit.com

    Thanks
    ——————-
    Clive Tonge
    http://sundaybest.moonfruit.com
    http://clivetonge.tumblr.com
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2013064/

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