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SILENT HOUSE
reviewed by Matthew Schuchman
03.06.2012

Silent HouseOpen Road Films
85 min., dir. by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, with Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, and Eric Sheffer Stevens

Exhausting all their resources in Japanese horror films to remake, filmmakers have moved onto South America to find the new inspirations for horror films. Based on a movie out of Uruguay, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (directors of the indie smash Open Water) stuck with the original premise of a horror film meant to look like it was done in all one shot for Silent House. That’s all well and good, but they forgot the most important thing: to scare their audience.

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of Ashley and Mary-Kate) is back at her family’s lake house with her father and uncle. The house has been rented out to other families over the years, but has largely remained unoccupied, leaving it to be vandalized by local hoodlums. The three are there to clean it out, fix it up, and ready it for sale. Fortunately — at least, for anyone wanting to set the premise of a horror film — the electricity is out and there is no cell signal in the area. Perfect.

When Uncle Peter has to step out for some supplies, someone seemingly enters the house and attacks Sarah’s father, and then searches for her. Who could this man be? Is there more than one attacker? Is it a supernatural presence, or just a crazy backwoods maniac?

What would have been impressive is if this was actually done in all one shot. You can see where there are hidden cuts, allowing the actors to have plenty of time off-camera to gather themselves. Nonetheless, it’s still pretty impressive. It must have been massively difficult for Elizabeth Olsen to stay in such a frantically unstable state for such long takes — you have to hand it to her for a great performance, no matter your final thoughts on the film. The same can’t be said for her costars, though. The actors playing her father and uncle feel so out of place, it may be the scariest thing about the movie. Aside from the fact they look more like peers than adults, their acting is just flaccid and pathetic.

When I sit and think about the opening of the film once it’s all over, I have to applaud what they did. This however does not change the fact the story is utterly transparent. Boring and predictable, I spent the entire film slumped to my side with my cheek in hand waiting for anything to actually scare me. Even when some of the imagery is slightly creepy, it’s all presented in a cut-and-paste fashion that takes from tons of films that came before. If you’re at all familiar with horror films that are meant to make you jump in your seat, than take a nap instead of seeing this film.

The aesthetic is interesting, but it feels like too much time was put into mapping it out than actually portraying anything engaging, story-wise. The single shot idea is a bold move, but I’m looking for substance, not cool tricks.

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