Monday, August 6, 2012

Silent House (2012)

Silent House begins without a sound and with a single shot that lasts the entire movie. This can be perceived as gimmicky. It's been done before and better. Alfred Hitchcock did it with Rope (1948), well sort of. He zoomed in to someone's back or something dark and then panned back out with the camera. This is where he would place the cuts in the film. But the idea was to make it look like one long continuous take, hence the title Rope. Other films, like Goodfellas (1990), are known for a single scene with a long continuous shot. But directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (Who previously directed the very suspenseful and well-done Open Water in 2003) have gone straight to the master for their inspiration and have attempted to make an entire movie with a single shot. 

I should also mention that Silent House is a remake of a 2010 Uruguayan film La casa muda (The Silent House). That one was directed by Gustavo Hern├índez and filmed in Spanish, also using a single shot throughout the entire film. 

The plot of Silent House in basically pretty simple, at least the parts that you need to know are. Sarah (Elizabeth Olson), her father (Adam Trese) and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are fixing up a secluded house in the countryside. The house is owned by the two brothers and they intend to get it ready to be sold. Sarah is there to help. The house has no electricity yet and there seem to be a ton of rooms and many many stairs. While they are there, things start to go wrong, just like they would in any horror film or maybe a Chevy Chase movie. Before too long into the movie we realize that there isn't going to be very much working going on. 

Silent House makes some improvements upon the original, but the things that the original got wrong, this one does as well. There are a few very subtle clues that foreshadow the twist ending, but they are so subtle that the outcome still seems completely crazy. The time that is spent leading up to the twist can get very tedious as well. There is a lot of silence, a lot of darkness and a lot of Sarah walking around muttering, "Daddy? Daddy?" Occasionally, the silence is interrupted with a loud bang intended to make the viewer jump out of their skin. This only works a few times. But what I did like about Silent House was Elizabeth Olsen. She is clearly the most talented part of her famous acting family. And she does a wonderful job with the material she is given here. This film also ups the darkness of the subject matter. Think 8mm (1998) dark. 

If this movie sounds like something you might enjoy, I would suggest seeing it over the original. The acting is better, the writing is better and the production values are better. Sure, the former had a Blair Withc kind of vibe to it, but it was a little too dark and too hard to see. This one is easier to follow, but not much. It still leaves a ton of questions and makes a lot of jumps in logic. But it's still fun to watch Olsen and it's the kind of movie that is good for the creepiness. Unfortunately it's only good once. 

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