Sunday, 16 September 2012

Review : Silent House (2011)


Chris Kentis, Laura Lau


Gustavo Hernández (film "La casa muda"), Laura Lau (screenplay)


Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens
Trapped inside her family's lakeside retreat, a young woman finds she is unable to contact the outside world as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house

I never caught the original SILENT HOUSE, and in truth, I had no real desire to catch this American remake. For one thing, a remake so soon after the original always feels like an insult to audiences intelligence to me, (yes, we can read subtitles; just release the original work), and as the films whole 'hype', if you will, was based around the fact that it is filmed, or at least appears to be filmed, in one continuous take. In short, its a gimmick, and to be quite frank, i couldn't give a good fuck about gimmickry, in any form, (unless William Castle is behind it). I'm interested in story, plot development, atmosphere and character. Without those things all fitted in place, bravado camerawork and directorial flourish really doesn't appeal to me. The story is God, if you will. SILENT HOUSE, in concept, sounds, (and is), pretty familiar ground. At its core, its essentially a home invasion movie, with an undercurrent on supernatural mystery to sweeten the taste. I dig these films, but they have to bring something fresh to the table. MOTHERS DAY, INSIDE, IL'S/ those are home invasion movies.

In truth, the 'one-shot-movie' thing feels like a chore to me. There are some masterful works out there that use the technique, and it goes without saying that Hitchcock's ROPE is a masterclass in the form, but lets be honest, there are very few Hitchcock's in this old world, and if one were to spring up, would he really be directing a remake of a recent film? Add to this the fact that these films are rarely completed in one shot, and the initial attraction is sedated even moreso. There are many editing tricks that can pull the wool over the audiences eyes, (HALLOWEEN'S celebrated extended opening shot from Myers' perspective is, in fact, three separate shots cleverly edited, and ROPE has few too, believe it or not). That said, the shots in these films are significantly long ones, and are very impressive, just not impressive enough to trump story, as is the case here. So, SILENT HOUSE remained on my 'who gives a rats ass' list since its original inception.

So, fuck the gimmickry. What works?

The one thing that changed my mind on all the above and actually got my ass in the seat for this one,  was my viewing of another film starring this films lead, Elizabeth Olsen, called MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE. Her performance in that film was so strong, so layered and so dynamic that I was willing to overlook any trepidation and dive on in. It doesn't hurt that shes incredibly sexy either.

Of course, the central performance is as on-point as anyone who's seen Olsen's previous work would expect. Shes fantastic, (even given the sparsity of her character on script), and portrays terror more effectively than almost anyone I can think of besides that gal from THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE, or Nicole Kidman. Much like Nicole Kidman elevated the material in THE OTHERS, so Olsen takes a run-of-the-mill horror formula and injects it with real heart and authenticity. She saves the movie, and makes it a worthwhile watch if only to witness a star on the rise.

The film has a truckload of atmosphere too. Its genuinely creepy in its first two acts, and Directors, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, make great use of his very limited, (though self imposed), box of tricks by using shadow and setting to maximum advantage. There are also some clever and effective nods to classics of old, including THE HAUNTING, (no, not the one with that guy from TAKEN). The set, (and setting) is suitably 'Gothic Americana', and the ever present gloom does bring on the chills. Sadly, the dynamic duo are saddled with a script and a story that both lack inspiration, and it all falls apart about midway through.

Somewhere around the mid-mark, SILENT HOUSE starts to veer into some disastrously familiar territory, and it becomes real obvious that this spook-house has a few twists up its sleeve. The problem is, the twists will be instantly seen through by anyone with a working knowledge of horror, and once the true nature of the plot sinks in, the scares, atmosphere and dread that the film has so well established are usurped by the audiences sense of tried recognition. You'll see this one coming a mile off, and it hurts the film greatly. personally, I had a handle of how events would most likely turn out from the opening scenes, simply through paying attention to character behaviour. I had hoped it wouldn't go down the path it, and I did get caught up in the tense atmosphere for a while, but really, theres nothing new here.

SILENT HOUSE is a film that absolutely walks the line in terms of quality. It boasts some impressive technical work, a brilliant lead performance, and some pretty unsettling scares early on, but it's balls drop off in the latter stages and it becomes little more that a familiar trip down Hollywood lane. Perhaps the original is sharper, though the plot was old long before the Uraguayan version, so I'm not holding out.

Hearty goodness and tiresome nonsense in equal measure. Its gotta be a.....


(Authors note : You wanna see a really excellent film with a purdy gal trapped in a big, boarded up house and running for her sweet life? Watch BURNING BRIGHT. It has a tiger....)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting this great review of Silent House, Kyle. I went online and rented Silent House on Friday afternoon, shortly before leaving my office it DISH. It was downloaded to my Hopper DVR and ready to watch by the time I got home. I haven’t seen the original either, but the idea of an entire movie done in one seamless take intrigued me. I think the single take method worked well for this film, but the story didn’t support the technical wizardry. You’re right about the ending; I saw it coming and wanted to shut off the movie.