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Silent House

A movie directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau

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One of the very few somewhat necessary remakes.

  • Oct 7, 2012
Rating:
+2
**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 that this just wasn't a good film, period. It would appear that studios simply are not patient enough, because just a little short of two years after the original Uruguayan film's release comes the American remake - and this time, they've dropped the "The" from the title!

Alright, yeah, I'm probably making it sound a lot more ridiculous than it actually is (or has to be). The story goes as follows: young heroine Sarah (Elizabeth Olson) goes to fix up an old house with dad John (Adam Trese). When they arrive, the power's out - prompting them to use the same sort of lamps that gave the original film some literal and figurative illumination -, Sarah's uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) is already there and ready to work (although not ready to cope with the disagreements that he often has with John), and a childhood friend shows up unexpectedly on the doorstep. Sarah can't remember any days spent with this supposed long-lost friend, but the two agree to meet up again later.

Strange noises are heard upstairs and Sarah goes to investigate. When she sends daddy to do likewise, he disappears and we hear what we assume is him falling. Maybe he did this to himself; or maybe there's someone in the house pulling some ghastly strings (gasp). The noises become more frequent and eventually the paranoia begins to materialize into an unseen, faceless man who tries many times to grab a hold of Sarah and do God-knows-what with her. On top of that, she begins to experience rapid hallucinations of what might or might not be her as a child. It's either all coming back to her, or it's all leaving at once; her sanity, that is.

The original "The Silent House" had an interesting visual style and was a technical achievement for sure, although the one-take decision felt gimmicky. Under the direction of Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (the team responsible for the far superior shark suspense pic "Open Water"), it feels less so. For a film that is stylistically so repetitive - Sarah runs, hides, screams, at one point escapes and then very idiotically returns to the house's interiors - it's actually not nearly as boring as the Hernandez-directed original. There are some really nice additions to the story that conjure up the sort of suspense necessary for a picture like this; one particularly tense sequence involves the opening and closing of Peter's car's back door while Sarah sits quietly - yet distressingly - inside.

Unfortunately, the film has the disadvantage of feeling all-too-familiar. It doesn't make an identity for itself even though it's so much better than the Uruguay version in just about every way. Olson is more compelling than her Uruguayan counterpart and the directing duo of Kentis and Lau are just more gifted than Hernandez seemed to be overall, whilst the script and characters remain paper-thin. This isn't quite the triumphant return one might have been expecting from them, but it further establishes both filmmakers as two people who are genuinely interested in earning the audience's trust and admiration through suspense rather than bloodshed. The twist ending of the film - which I won't spoil - remains unsatisfactory, although somehow the filmmakers have made it easier to accept. "Silent House" is one of the better remakes of recent in the sense that it is more or less necessary; and although it's admittedly generic and disposable, it's a fun ride while it lasts. The element of surprise (I did not go into this one with high expectations at all) is what works best for it; because otherwise, it's just another movie that didn't need to be made, or at least made this well.

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December 11, 2012
I tend to agree with Bill's comment below.
 
October 16, 2012
"Unfortunately, the film has the disadvantage of feeling all-too-familiar. It doesn't make an identity for itself even though it's so much better than the Uruguay version in just about every way." well said. I have to say, if it wasn't for Olsen this movie would've sucked royally.
 
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More Silent House reviews
review by . March 11, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
If These Walls Could Jog Your Memory...
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 “Open Water“. The film has been dubbed the ‘exercise’ …
review by . March 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
review by . July 14, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Too Silent
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 …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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Genre: Horror
Release Date: Mar. 9, 2012
MPAA Rating: R

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