Movie Review: "Silent House" by Ben Foutch

Silent House
Directors: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens
Release: 2011
Running Time: 85 min

Ok, so it’s obvious just from viewing the trailer for "Silent House" that standard horror movie criteria is being fulfilled. Attractive young woman is alone and in peril while being trapped in some dimly lit structure. So, why shell out that hard earned cash for this overused scenario?

Directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau have presented us with a paranoid, nightmarish thrill ride that boasts the technical achievement of shooting the film in mostly long takes, to appear as if it is one long take. Not impressed? Sounds like a gimmick? Gimmick or not, this filmmaking approach matched with Elizabeth Olsen’s performance makes this standard story worth watching.

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), her father (Adam Trese) and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are in the process of some last minute repairs/cleanup at their old vacation property. Everything seems fine, until Adam and Eric show signs of tension, and mysterious photographs appear that Adam doesn’t want Sarah to see. While cleaning her room, Sarah hears a strange noise. She calls out for her dad, but gets no response. What happens next is for you to experience on your own.

Without the comfort of multiple camera angles, the camera’s point of view becomes our only link to Sarah and her horrific situation. This one take approach creates tension by forcing the camera’s perspective to Sarah’s movement. It is subtle in the way we are shown things that Sarah isn’t aware of and sometimes left in the dark (literally). The overall effect was not like watching a film, but like a real scenario being forced upon you. This feeling could not have been replicated by multiple camera angles. I wish more horror films would be more in tune with this.

Impressive camera work aside, Elizabeth Olsen deserves credit for giving such a layered, energetic performance. I cringe at the thought of how many takes it took to get the useable takes. Just imagine what it would feel like to start over every time something goes awry. A lesser actress would surely have drug this film through the gutter.

Warning: do not see this movie if you are interested in dialogue and plot. There is nothing new in either department. If you are looking for a more suspenseful, inspired take on a standard formula then by all means check this out. "Silent House" is about the experience.

**This film is more enjoyable if you don’t know too much about it going in. I plan on discussing more in detail on the next CinemaCast. Feel free to listen and comment!**