Horror movie remakes are a dime-a-dozen indeed and this is made more fact with 2012’s “Silent House” (it was released at Sundance in 2011). This film is a remake of the Spanish horror movie “The Silent House” (La Casa Muda) directed by Gustavo Hernandez. The original was a low budget exercise that made do with whatever it had. Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau who made their mark with the sleeper hit “OpenWater“. The film has been dubbed the ‘exercise’ of “real time” fear and that it is a continuous unbroken one-shot that never stops. I guess one needs to buy its gimmick to really become enthralled with it….once again, it is the power of suggestion that comes into play.
A young woman named Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) is at her family’s lake house, helping her father (Adam Trece) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) pack things up because they are selling the place. They hardly use the place and the house had seemingly been damaged by squatters, and so the three needs to work within the benefit of electricity relying mostly on flashlights, candles and battery-powered lamps. A young woman (Jennifer Taylor Ross) stops by to say hello, she obviously knows Sarah but she isn’t really too sure. When her uncle leaves, and her dad sends her upstairs to pack, this is when strange things begin to occur. Is this a home invasion or something much more inexplicable?
I haven’t had the benefit of watching the original as of yet, and so, I suppose this would be to this remake’s advantage. This is a film that relies on its power of ‘suggestion’, and I am pretty sure that the filmmakers had merely masked its editing to make it appear an ‘unbroken’ shot. I guess one problem that always seem to arise from a gimmick production such as this would be that the audience really wouldn’t know how they should react, or how exactly someone should look at the film. It is easy to be merely be immersed in the film’s novelty rather than paying attention to its narrative. The narrative is indeed pretty simple, and it is stripped of all devices and trickery. The film’s publicity were more focused on Olsen’s performance and depends on one simple narrative exposition.
It is a little difficult to review a movie such as this without spoilers, but I will try anyway. Much of the film is all about Sarah; the camerawork and the screenplay is all based on following her around as she stumbles, screams, panics and runs around inside and outside the house. From the film’s first act, you already that something is amiss, I mean there are some weird exchanges in dialogue, things that really isn’t that normal. It tries to be subtle, but the exposition feels a little ‘in your face’. The script then takes the viewer along with some shaky camera work, as we are taken to follow Sarah around as we see the house’s layout. The film keeps things as close to Sarah as it possibly can, just so it can generate a feeling of raw fear and panic. It is risky, and yes, it started to feel redundant after awhile, but that all comes together in the film’s final act.
The film’s twists and expositions were rendered quite efficiently. The second and final act of the film does manage to come together as the direction was able to do its job simply and yet it had that capable hand in drawing out the scenes. One needs to understand that while the house’s anatomy wasn’t that credible, the intentional risk masks a more psychological topography in helping the film draw forth its horror effects. I suppose that there were some scenes when the film’s style did get in the way, and it is hard to depend on one actress to pull everything off. But I have to admit the film was real sincere in its intentions, and I have to say that it wasn‘t a conventional horror movie. Yes, the film‘s final act wasn‘t original and yes, I‘ve seen it done better, but I really appreciated the way it unfolded. It did however, telegraph the twist about 25 minutes into the film, I knew what it was going to be about, but I just wasn’t sure how it would play out. This means that the film did have a solid footing since the film was only 88 minutes long. It is good when a film does follow through with solid clues, it made the narrative much more credible and the execution well-rounded.
I guess I have to give Olsen credit where credit is due. She was in fact really good in her portrayal. I mean, it is hard enough to become convincing when expressing terror, and it is even harder when the script left her out to dry. She truly acted her heart’s worth as she comes out with several noteworthy moments that made me root for her character. She aided in the film’s tension and the scares became credible because of her reaction. Olsen was charismatic and beautiful; I hope to see her in another horror film.
“Silent House” is a simple horror movie, and it is an acting decathlon for Olsen which just made me a fan. The film isn’t anything special or essential, and it certainly isn't for everyone, but it is very much worth a watch at least once. It is successful and strong enough to stand for what it was supposed to do.
**1/2 out of **** I have rather vague memories of Gustavo Hernandez's disappointing "La Casa Muda" (literal English translation: "The Silent House"). What I do remember is that it was supposedly shot all in a single take (and boy, did it look as if it was) and that there were some genuinely creepy moments. I also remember it being disappointing and overall kind of stupid; getting progressively more absurd as it went along until an insanely silly final twist sealed the deal … more
Star Rating: For the first hour or so if it’s highly publicized eighty-eight minutes, Silent House had me hook, line, and sinker. But then I reached the climactic surprise twist, and something changed. In part, it had to do with not wanting the mystery to be solved; I appreciate a good explanation as much as the next moviegoer, but I also believe that situations are infinitely more frightening when they happen for no apparent reason. Mostly, however, it … more
SILENT HOUSE Written by Laura Lau Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau Starring Elizabeth Olsen Imagine being trapped in a secluded lake house with an intruder and little way to defend yourself. There is no electricity, no phone service and you have no idea where the key to the front door is. Imagine how tense every single minute of that experience would be and you have SILENT HOUSE, a thriller from Chris Kentis (OPEN WATER) and Laura Lau (directorial debut), and remake of the 2010 … more