‘Silent House’ Movie Review
With a big-budget Disney film and two romantic comedies releasing this weekend, naturally Hollywood decided to add a horror flick to lineup. Starring Elizabeth Olsen, the claustrophobic Silent House is brought to you by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. Before seeing the movie, you should take a good hard look at why people decide to see horror movies in the first place. While Silent House delivers some eerie scenes and jump-out-of-your-seat moments, the story is peppered with stupid decisions and disappointing performances.
Plotwise, Sarah (Olsen), her father (Adam Trese), and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) decide to fix up and sell their old abandoned country house. After their house is continually vandalized, they use extreme measures to keep the house fortified. This, of course, makes them pretty much trapped in the house when things start to go haywire.
Haywire, in this instance, includes creepy noises, figures, and events that pretty much exist in any other horror film. Trying to find a way out of the house, Sarah struggles to allude the mysterious creepers and stay alive. With a chilling atmosphere, every movement becomes a risk for her safety.
Far and away the most unique part of the film is the camera style. The film appears to take place in one giant shot, although it is merely clever editing. However, the editing does create a point-of-view approach that is highly effective. It truly does thrust the audience into the action, making them feel as much of a character in the story as everyone else.
In the fright department, there are also some very effective moments. In fact, there is one particular scene that had the entire theater screaming. The camerawork sets up both an eerie tone and pacing. Frustratingly slow at times, the plot doesn’t let you relax much. It does appear to be a cheap form of suspense, but hey, you go to horror movies knowing the build-up is equally as frightening as the actual moments.
However, the thrills hardly seem primary to a lackluster story. When trying to sum up the film, it’s difficult to really articulate what it’s about. Instead, it’s easier to explain that it’s about an attractive woman being chased around a creepy house with no way out. It’s flimsy at best. When the story starts to run out of gas, the filmmakers had to rely on bone-headedness to keep the plot alive. The middle portion of the plot is where the film did suffer the most.
However, the biggest twist does validate the stupidness of the characters a bit. This validation does mess up some of the earlier justifications, though. While it does fix some holes, it creates arguably bigger ones in its wake. In fact, it makes each jumpy moment seem very cheap.
Elizabeth Olsen had her coming-out party with last year’s indie hit Martha Marcy May Marlene. This great film showcased Olsen’s ability to subtlety portray an unstable character. While she nails the earlier role, Silent House relies too much on her non-speaking parts to flesh out her character. Instead of letting the audience notice the deteriorating signs of sanity, we’re left with a more obvious performance that seems unreal. It could be categorized as over-acting, but I chalk it up to the film’s direction more than the performance itself.
The same can probably be said for the supporting characters. Trese and Stevens aren’t widely recognized actors, and they are given thinly developed roles that give the audience little to care about. When we completely understand them, we have far too little emotional feelings than needed to create a strong ending.
Ultimately, the film probably deserves the mixed to negative reviews. While it has its flaws, it also has some undeniably cool parts. Although the camera seems to make it a point to show as much of Olsen’s bust as possible, the one-shot style fits into the thriller aspect the film is going for. It does sacrifice some major emotional and plot developments for the sake of white-knuckled viewing, but isn’t that why we see horror movies in the first place? If the answer is yes, then have at Silent House.