Many awaited the next film project Elizabeth Olsen would be involved in and few thought it would be a horror film. After the high praise she earned for her career breaking performance in Sean Durkin’s ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’ she turns her hand to Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s horror film ‘Silent House’. Well…yes it is a remake, yes it takes place in a supposedly haunted house surrounded by woods/lake and yes it features a lead female constantly shrieking. However the audience hook is that it’s filmed in a single 88minute camera take. Horror in ‘real time’ could this be the new evolution in the genre? Lord knows we have exhausted the old missing video tape scenario (The Ring, Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity…). It’s pretty ambitious to attempt to film an entire horror film in one single take and I admit the editing of the cuts are seamless enough to keep most skeptics quiet for a while.
Keeping close and not tampering with the original 2010 Uruguayan film ‘Silent House’ keeps the story pretty basic but amps up on atmosphere. Sarah (Olsen), her Father (Adam Trese) and Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are trying to fix and refurbish their vacation home so it’s easier to sell. The house is isolated by a lake and some woods, no internet reception or electricity, the doors are dead bolted and windows boarded up to keep out squatters. There we have the ‘legitimate’ horror film set up, so we can’t poke holes at why she didn’t run to a neighbour or throw a brick throw a window and leg it. Mysterious noises begin to come from upstairs and as it turns out they are not alone in the house.
Although I gently mock the script/screenplay basis, it’s a well crafted film in terms of atmosphere, stark minimal sound and a great performance from Olsen. She is frequently up to the task of managing to be believably frightened during lengthy 15minutes sequences at a time, where she is the entire focus.
The problem arises in the characters who we are not given any time to really care about until the end. As it’s filmed ‘real time’ we meet and say goodbye to them in that specific moment in their life, with no background or future clues. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT>>> Now the controversial ending of ‘Silent House’ seems to be what most people are talking about. I think perhaps it is a little bit of a cop out and a little obvious. However watching it back moments where Sarah straddles her father “What you don’t like me anymore?” followed by a psychotic breakdown and childhood memory flashback “Daddy stop, please stop that hurts”.
I mean….yeesh. It was devastating and heartbreaking more than anything and I’m not sure about it’s place in a horror film. If I want to know how sick some people are in the world I’ll watch The Crime and Investigation channel or Crimewatch. What’s even more emotionally excruciating is that the film is supposedly based on true events. If so it’s hard to watch this film and not think it’s pretty crass to indulge in the entertainment of someone’s psychosis due to childhood abuse. After all that independent cinema horror I longed to watch Piranha 3D with college kids in Bikinis, on spring break being eaten by fish with funky teeth.