Silent House: A Deafening Exercise In Clever Filmmaking

9 03 2012

A remake of the Uruguayan horror film La Casa Muda, Silent House is a single-shot thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen (yes, the younger sister of those twins). This no-editing, one-take spin on the genre has been the crux of the movie’s marketing campaign, inviting audiences to “experience 88 minutes of real fear caught in real time.” And, thankfully enough, it manages to do this while avoiding the burgeoning cliche that is “found footage” (more on that later). Here’s the breakdown:

Sarah (Olsen) and her dad, John (Adam Trese), and uncle, Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens), head out to the family lakeside retreat, working to clean up the dilapidated house in order to sell it. But not all is as it seems and when a violent menace begins wreaking havoc on the trapped occupants, Sarah must find a way to escape and uncover the truth.

The Monkey: While it may have seemed gimmicky in some of the marketing materials, the single-take technique worked extremely well here. Not only was it mind-bendingly impressive (can you imagine messing up and having to start over?), it lent a certain sense of urgency and freshness to a relatively tried-and-true concept. Additionally, Silent House managed to capture some of that “found footage” feel without actually having to come up with some half-way believable contrivance of a story to convince the audience that a camera would be rolling the whole time. It also forced Olsen to carry the movie entirely on her own, a task which she tackled quite successfully. While the audience is introduced to Peter, John and few others, the camera never leaves Sarah, making this movie single-shot as well as single point-of-view. And without revealing too much, it’s this myopic perspective that keeps the movie from feeling like every other female-led horror flick.

As far as storytelling goes, there’s not much to tell without answering too many questions. The build-up to the scares are equally divided between horror-cliche-jump-outs and genuinely creepy. In particular, a bit with the eerie flash of a Polaroid camera will make you think twice about ever taking a photo again.

The Weasel: Again, without spoilers, it’s hard to delve into some of the deeper issues with Silent House, but I’ll give it a go. The ending. The movie relies on its clever camera work to distract the audience from the rather haphazard and rushed climax. The filmmakers seem to be going for a certain reaction, yet viewers are left confused, but not in the good Inception kind of way. Unlike a clever “thinker,” where you walk away finding new and unearthed threads of subtext, Silent House only becomes increasingly riddled with plot holes and unanswerable questions the more you think about it. It’s as if the filmmakers were saying, “See, wasn’t that fun? Now leave the theatre and don’t ask any questions…move along!” Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to comply with this sentiment, as you quickly realize the movie demands a repeat viewing but wouldn’t actually be any better for it.

A wildly inventive take on the terrified-female-horror-victim concept, Silent House is definitely worth a look, especially for the smattering of decent scares and its unique single-take approach.

4 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Does the “single-shot” concept seem clever or gimmicky? Did Olsen do a decent job carrying the movie? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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6 responses

25 03 2012
The Focused Filmographer

Dustin! Great to see you back again, bud. Hope you are well. (This is “T” by the way, previously known as thescarletsp1der).

I did not enjoy this movie at all. Olsen’s performance was great, but the rest of the film…not worth it for me. I wanted my money back. From the direction it began to take to the awkward, half-expectant, yet semi-preposterous ending that I just couldn’t swallow…it didn’t do it for me. I think it had a good concept to begin with, but overswung and tried to accomplish more than it should’ve.

It used simplicity in filming, but should’ve used the same concept in storywriting/telling. IMO

I’m glad you enjoyed it. But I am even more glad to see you back.

26 03 2012
Dustin

Glad to be back, T, and thanks for the comment! Yeah, I have the feeling this is one of those polarizing film-going experiences…it either works for you or it doesn’t. Were you excited for this one and found it disappointing, or were you not particularly looking forward to it in the first place? Any upcoming horror films you’re excited for? I think Cabin in the Woods looks promising!

28 03 2012
The Focused Filmographer

Man, I really wasn’t even thinking about seeing it. Just randomly one evening I said…”I’m gonna go check out this scary movie.” I didn’t know what to expect at all…and was still disappointed. eh, oh well.

I am looking forward to Cabin in the Woods myself actually! It is one of the April releases I am anticipating. Joss Whedon is great!

2 04 2012
Dustin

Yeah, Whedon is great – glad he’s getting the chance to direct such a big-time movie!

28 03 2012
Dee

“wreaking havoc”

2 04 2012
Dustin

Thanks for the catch! Did you see the movie? How’d you like it?

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