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Silent House Eerily Effective Until The Awful, Explanatory End

Silent House
Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
Written by Lau based on the 2010 film The Silent House by Gustavo Hernandez
Open Road, 2012

As basic as it comes, the dark, scary house story will be told over and over again and oftentimes never get a variation.  They come and go in theatres, every once in awhile finding an audience.  But for every one that does, there are about 10 that come and go and you never knew it came out.  It’s a genre that you’d think would have worn out its welcome…but I think the story is so classic and taps into an everyday fear and it never seems like an old concept.

Silent House has a wrinkle: it has allegedly been shot all in one continuous take.  Not exactly like Rope, which had some fairly obvious cuts but gave the illusion of one continuous shot, but apparently the whole movie.  Now, whether or not you believe them is sort of immaterial, they do make it at least look like the whole movie was done in one take.  The Uruguayan original also took this tack, and it’s apparently based on a true story.  A lot of people could be lying here.  But that’s the basis.  The movie comes courtesy of co-directing team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, who brought us the documentary-style horror film Open Water in 2003.

Silent House stars fresh-faced Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, fresh off her star-making turn in Martha Marcy May Marlene.  She and her dad John (Adam Trese) have come out to a lakeside house for a few days.  They’re about to leave, but there are some issues they have to take care of, and dad has enlisted his brother Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) to help out.  The house is without electricity and is boarded up, so it looks like the dead of night inside save for a few lanterns.

Sarah gets a visit from an old playmate, Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross), whom Sarah does not remember that well.  They decide to get together later.  Once back in the house, Sarah starts hearing noises and the whole, maybe it’s haunted, maybe it’s a killer scenario begins.  The movie builds tension through that unbroken shot, minimal soundtrack, occasional bumps and creaks, and Olsen’s terrified performance.  What we do know is that certain characters have acted creepily.  There are only four characters in the whole movie, so who could be behind all of this, and why?

Well, the movie has an answer for you, and let’s just say, you deserve better after sitting through a particularly effective movie for over an hour.  While the reason everything is happening is horrifying, the presentation of it gets too bogged down in the over-the-top explanation.  I thought of a way that this could have been really, really frightening, although maybe the filmmakers wanted to adhere to the “true story” as closely as possible.  But one little change would have made that movie absolutely brilliant, one that I can’t share here because it would give away the ending.  The filmmakers could have had their explanation, but continued to haunt well after the movie was over.

Silent House isn’t a found footage film, but it works a lot like that with the sometimes-shaky POV and unbroken shot.  Overall this is a pretty scary movie, but it will lose many people with its ending.

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