Sarah and her father journey to the middle of nowhere to restore the family cabin and prepare it to go on the market. Sarah’s uncle Peter joins the pair shortly after the work commences. Naturally, strange things begin to happen, people die, and Sarah screams a lot.
Silent House is a remake of the 2010 Uruguayan horror film of the same name. Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (the creative team responsible for Open Water) are behind this US remake. Lau rewrote the screenplay for US audiences and the pair co-directed the film. Unfortunately, neither the script nor their collective directorial vision is solid.
I kept waiting for this English language redux to get where it was going but it never really does. When it was over, I was left feeling like I had missed something. But in reality, Silent House just doesn’t have the feel of a complete film.
Silent House has a unique gimmick with the way that it provides the illusion of one continuous take and occurs in real time. But a gimmick will only carry a film so far. The one take approach is effective for building tension but not as effective for sustaining said tension.
The pacing is one of the key problems with this flick. It bottoms out in the middle. The beginning and end are fast paced but the second act falls apart. As such, all of the atmosphere and the moody sensation the film has built in the first act collapses on itself.
The plot twist has become the source of much controversy. It felt like it was lifted from a couple of superior films but without making any attempt to differentiate itself from the pictures it stole from. The twist negates all replay value. This film might be OK to watch once but the chances that you’ll ever want to watch it a second time are slim.
Since Silent House was shot in long takes (I am certain that it was not shot in only one), the performances suffer. The directors were seemingly unable to get a series of takes that are representative of their performers’ best work. Elizabeth Olson proved that she is a capable performer in Martha Marcy May Marlene. However, one does not get the impression that this is her best work.
I kept waiting to see Elizabeth Olsen channeling Laurie strode or any other legendary final girl but that never happens. It isn’t until after the film’s big twist is revealed that we get even a faint sense of whom Sarah is. She isn’t a dynamic enough character for the audience to really invest in. Since the success or failure of the picture rides largely on the audience identifying with the film’s lead, this picture fails in that regard. She cries and says a lot of annoying things but an ass-kicking lady she is not. It’s hard to really enjoy a character that is so helpless and underdeveloped.
In addition to lackluster performances, there is very little character development going on here. That is the case, so as not to compromise the integrity of the finale but with the film’s numerous other shortcomings, character development isn’t a luxury it can afford to live without. When the viewer isn’t invested in any of the characters, they start to tune out.
If you haven’t seen Silent House, you’re not missing out. It suffers from a lack of originality, poor performances, and an overreliance on a twist ending that doesn’t pay off. If you still want to see it, the film is currently available on DVD.
Director(s): Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Writer(s): Laura Lau
Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese
Studio/ Production Co:
Budget: $2 Million
Length: 87 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Home Invasion