Elizabeth “Lizzy” Olsen’s second leading role comes in this low-budget remake of an Uruguayan horror film made all the way back in, get this, 2010. Which begs the question: How long until an American remake is green lit before the original version has even been made?
At the helm are directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau which you will remember from the low-budget shark movie Open Water from 2003. That film was made for the cost of two extra value meals at Arby’s and yet grossed $55 millions rupees. The two, after the huge success, went dark from the mainstream, until a fortunate turn of events landed them the Silent House opportunity.
If you don’t already know or haven’t been paying attention to the marketing, this is a film that relies heavily on a gimmick. Or if you don’t like that word one could say it’s a very “high-concept” film. The gimmick/concept being that it’s told in real-time (the original did this as well) in what is basically one long take lasting 88 minutes. Well, more like a several very long takes averaging around 12-13 minutes each. Not that it matters. The cuts are seamless.
The film follows Sarah (Olsen), literally the camera never leaves her, as her father and uncle ready their quaint summer-house near the lake for sale. We just happen to be along for the ride. And make no mistake, this is a scary ride at times – even if we know almost nothing about the characters. The little bits that we do pick up, Sarah’s dad being a bit of type A asshole and her uncle being a bit of a creeper play nicely into building up the suspense.
Olsen’s performance is downright solid. The girl can act. It’s always a make or break deal when one actor has to carry a film all by themselves. She does it with flying colors. It won’t be long before she’s accepting awards left and right at the theater formerly known as Kodak. She’s 2 for 2 now (with Martha Maples Marjory Mayberry being the first). One note, while in M film she doesn’t have the support of the bra (or shirt in many scenes), she does have both in Silent House. But don’t despair, gents. She starts out with several varieties of shirts on, but loses most of them in favor of a near see though tank top. It’s a literal and metaphorical metamorphosis of mammary viewage.
The technical exercise is, of course, limiting, but is nonetheless impressive. As a member of the viewing public I don’t give a rats butt about how a movie is made. I just want to be entertained. As a filmmaker and critic I do care about those things. The film does a fine job of giving a taste of both. In one memorable scene the two concepts meld together to create one of the more frightening and technically impressive pieces of filmmaking I’ve seen in a while.
The scene that I refer to takes the viewer and Olsen on a wild ride from inside to outside to inside again the house again. On it’s own merit the scene doesn’t differ from many things familiar in horror movies, but once you begin to break down the technical elements it becomes clear that an incredible amount of planning and precise coordination had to come together perfectly. And even from an artistic point of view the scene excels as it’s a turning point both literally and figuratively for Olsen’s character. On top of all of that, the sun is setting (for real) during the scene. Simply put, it’s the horror movie equivalent of an OK GO music video.
Like other haunted house flicks before it, once the details of the haunting come to light the film falls flat. No exception here. Still, Silent House is an impressive piece of filmmaking that packs punches in bunches.
Snore Factor: ZZ