Film Review: Silent House (2012)
Silent House (2012) is the English-language remake of the 2010 Uruguayan horror film La Casa Muda. Not much is changed or added from the original, so the main problems recur in Hollywood’s version as well. Likewise, the new film retains the outstanding atmospheric tension of the original, thanks in large part to the production’s gimmick: it is told in a single take/shot (in reality, cuts were digitally hidden throughout). Although its ending will frustrate many viewers, Silent House is a solid scare-fest for horror fans, oozing with non-stop suspense and featuring another terrific performance from rising star Elizabeth Olsen.
The story has one location: a dilapidated lakeside retreat. Sarah and her father, John, and her uncle, Peter, have returned to fix it up in order to sell the property. With the power out, the group resorts to using lanterns and flashlights. Once Peter leaves, Sarah begins hearing strange noises in the old house and asks her father to check it out. Soon after that, Sarah hears a loud thud and her father disappears, leaving her to fend for herself in a creepy old house where at least one possible intruder is preying on her.
As with all horror films, especially one so gimmicky, the less you know about the plot the better. It is a straightforward set up, and from there Sarah sneaks around the house but cannot escape because the doors are padlocked due to house-squatters and the front-door key went missing with her father. Also like most horror movies, it relies on a twist towards the end. In this case, the ending will greatly divide viewers: some will find it interesting while most others will criticize it as a clichéd and maddening twist that insults the audience’s intelligence and patience with all that has come before it. Just like the original Uruguayan film, Silent House suffers from an anti-climax and weak, largely unsatisfying ending.
Nonetheless, the film is brimming with tension. It is overwhelming at times, especially since there are no (editing) cuts to give a reprieve; the audience is stuck in the house just like Sarah is. Elizabeth Olsen, who proved her immense talents in Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011), continues to show why she is a much-sought-after actress; her highly expressive face plays well into the damsel in distress role of Sarah. Despite a few nonsensical actions by the character, Olsen maintains audience sympathy for Sarah and adds suspense to her plight. Her performance, the lack of cuts, and dark setting makes Silent House a worthwhile genre entry for horror fans.
This remake is on par with the original flick, which means it is equally exasperating in the end. Furthermore, critics of the shaky-cam cinematography will detest this flick, as it features nothing but it; even seasoned shaky-cam viewers who have become accustomed to the technique will find it annoying at times because it renders important moments virtually incomprehensible. Still, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, the directing team behind Open Water (2003), have made a suspense-ridden horror flick mainly geared towards fans of the genre. A matinee viewing could be worth it for those who enjoy movies that focus on atmospheric tension, but a rental/VOD might be a better option for such a divisive flick. Also, considering this premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival but took over a year to find wide release should tell you about the studio/distributor’s faith in the film’s wide appeal.
Silent House – 6.5/10