Although it slightly runs off the rails by the end, Silent House manages to provide a few scares thanks to the intense performance of Elizabeth Olsen, tight camera angles and a brilliant use of bare bones lighting.
A remake of the 2010 film La casa muda, Silent House was directed by Chris Kentis, Laura Lau with a screenplay from Gustavo Hernández (who wrote the original) and Lau. The movie stars Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett, and Haley Murphy.
Keeping the review as spoiler free as possible, the movie opens on Olsen’s Sarah who is at her family’s vacation home with her father John (Trese) and her uncle Peter (Stevens). The three are attempting to repair the family vacation home to get it ready to sell. No one in the family uses the home and it has fallen into abandoned state. The walls have mold growing inside them, there is no electricity, and there is no phone. To make matters worse, teenagers have broken all the windows – which have now been completely boarded up.
With the windows covered the house is dark and the lack of electricity leaves it lit only by lanterns, lamps and flashlights. The decrepit state and tight camera angles used by the filmmakers also leave the audience feeling claustrophobic – which adds to the tension even before the scares start.
The house repairs seem to be going great until Peter has to leave for supplies, and Sarah starts to hear something moving around upstairs. Her father humors her by checking the doors and closets, but doesn’t find anything. Sarah goes back to packing up the kids’ bedroom when she hears a loud thud and later discovers her father unconscious in a closet with his head bleeding.
The rest of the film moves at a predictable pace with Sarah running from danger to danger as she tries to escape the killer in the house. Even with the return of Peter (who happens to be packing a pistol), Sarah is only safe for a matter of minutes so the audience isn’t able to lose any of the tension from the film.
Although Olsen delivers yet another strong and intense performance with Sarah (who reminded me of her character in Martha Marcy May Marlene), her constant crying and sniffing gets a tad annoying. She is fighting for her life and scared to death, but the lack of much music or background noise puts every sniffle and cry upfront – which tended to wear on me as the movie went on.
However, Olsen saves the twist at the end with the way she is able to completely change her character in a matter of seconds.
Although I didn’t care for the twist at the ending and there are some big holes in the story, the filmmakers make the most of their dark setting to scare with thuds, reflections in the mirror, or things moving out of focus in the shadows.
From the opening moments of the film, there seems to be a dark tension hanging on everything. The pace moves slowly at first, but the audience can feel the horror that is coming. By the end, Silent House comes a little undone and doesn’t quite pay off for all the slow building tension, but the movie is still worth taking the time to watch. It will make you jump more than once, and features another incredible performance from Olsen.
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