SILENT HOUSE Review

The reason this film stands out above other horror films is also the main idea the marketing team for this has been pushing, and rightfully so. As seen in the ad's for "Silent House" this is supposed to be one long continuous shot that documents in real time the experiences of our protagonist Sarah. It is extremely difficult to capture one long shot in any film without making any cuts and in that we are talking about six or seven minutes. To try and create a whole film with this technique would not just take an immense amount of planning and skill on both the actors and directors part, but it almost doesn't seem worth the trouble. There are certainly some edits within "Silent House" but they are few and far between and the purpose of this technique is made effective and that is what really matters. The point of following Sarah through a seemingly harmless fall evening as her, her father, and uncle continue renovating a house they are getting ready to sell is that our eyes are that of the characters. We are constricted as Sarah is, unable to see what is behind her or above her. It is the perfect trick to play on an audience who is looking for not just scares, but real suspense. This is only the second horror film I've seen so far this year and it is nice to see things going in a positive direction for the horror genre. While February's "The Woman In Black" was a nice throwback to gothic campfire stories, "Silent House" (though a remake of the Uruguayan film, " La Casa Muda") moves the genre forward with a new take on a narrative that might have been lifeless otherwise.

From Left: Peter (Eric Stevens), Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) and
John (Adam Trese) investigate some mold in their old
vacation house.
Like most horror films, there is only so much of the story you can divulge without giving too much away; this is of course true with "Silent House" as well. What can be said I think without giving too much away is that this turned out to be more of a psychological horror film rather than one that was simply out to get scares with monsters. There are monsters here, just not the ones you might expect. For most of the film we as an audience are shrouded in mystery as well, unaware of what is really going on while only occasionally being dropped hints that could indicate a number of different conclusions. The plot unfortunately is not the most important thing here though and that is where the film lags at times. When the makers seem to forget they are conveying a story rather than just experimenting with a filmmaking technique or so entranced with Elizabeth Olsen's face that the point of the story starts to wander. The first twenty minutes or so almost test your patients with the combination of the limited scope the eye of the camera gives you and the set-up of Olsen's Sarah helping her father (Adam Trese) and uncle Peter (Eric Stevens) fix up an old vacation house they came to when she was younger. There is no more back story given than the fact they are prepping the house to sell and then we begin to notice little things about their interactions. Something is off, the vibes are strange, and when Sarah begins to hear things the tone shifts and the technique works giving us moments fully realized by fear.

Peter and Sarah try desperately to escape an
unknown threat in "Silent House".
The fact that Olsen carries the whole film on her able shoulders only re-enforces what her breakout role in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" hinted at. The girl is a powerhouse actress and can bring life and more importantly, soul to a film that might have drowned under its owns aspirations were it in lesser hands. In "Silent House" Olsen again uses her preference for the atypical to lift the film from its standard intentions. She is the face of the film, is in nearly every frame of it and makes her characters plight feel more genuine than insane. To her credit, she also takes every person in the audience and places them in her position. Locked in a place where there is literally something creepy lurking around every corner. The way in which she chokes back her screams and tightens her face as if telling it with all her might not to move a muscle is incredibly detailed emotions, we know the fear and we can only imagine what is running through her mind and be thankful we are not in the same situation. For me, that is a true strength in the horror genre that has not been seen in a long while. To actually make an audience fear what it is when they hear a strange creak in their house when they get home, to instill in them a paranoia about what might be threatening them just out of their sight is what "Silent House" can do to you and while this could be credited to the directors and their chosen approach to the story most of the credit has to go to Olsen for so naturally and effectively getting under our skin.

Strange realizations come flooding back to Sarah.
"Silent House" may not break new ground as far as scary stories go, but really, what is left and where else is there to go? This is the same thing the "Paranormal Activity" films are doing and even upcoming flicks like "Cabin in the Woods" that play on the cliches of the genre yet look to be smart while delivering their own chills. You may have seen this film before and by all means have the right to count it out on that fact alone, but it is raised up a notch simply by the performance Olsen gives and the tactics the filmmakers employ to raise some genuine scares. While this will certainly not push Olsen's career further into the spotlight than the far superior "Martha Marcy May Marlene" it won't hold her back either or raise cause for concern. This was the other film that had its premiere last year at the Sundance Film Festival that starred the younger sister of the "Full House" twins and even there it didn't make as much noise. I expect it to do about the same in its theatrical run and disappear again after a few weeks of being on the rental shelves. When "Silent House" will really come into play is when we look back on Olsen's career and see that no matter what genre of movie she's playing in, her performance is what strikes you about that film and will seriously have you questioning every noise in your house the next day.