I’ve heard so much about Elizabeth Olsen lately, but I had never actually seen her work. I opted out of seeing ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’, but hearing about another Olsen sibling in the entertainment industry piqued my interest, so when the opportunity to see her in ‘Silent House’ arose, I jumped at the opportunity. However, after having seen the movie now, I shouldn’t have been so excited.
‘Silent House’ is a remake of the 2010 Uruguayan film ‘The Silent House’. It tells the story of a young woman who is trapped inside her family’s lake house after hearing ominous noises and seeing things in and around the house. Directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau set out to recreate the unorthodox shooting style of the original film, which was to make it look like one continuous shot filmed in real time. This uninterrupted type of shooting was weird at first, but I started to buy into it as the film went on. It provided a whole new take on the horror film where you’re supposed to take the proverbial ride with the main character. The audience sees things as the characters see them, and it started to make me feel uncomfortable at times, but that was good thing. The directors were able to manipulate my emotions in such a way that I felt as anxious as the main character, Sarah, as she ran about the house scared. The whole concept behind the way the film was shot is interesting, but if it continues to be a trend, I could see it getting very played out.
In addition to the unique shooting style of the film, I found Elizabeth Olsen to have a great presence on the screen. There was a lot of time when it was just her reacting to noises around her, but I think she did well with what she had to work with. By no means is this anything worth talking about like her debut effort in ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene’, but she was able to keep me in the film and with her character. That is, however, until the movie got pretty weird.
The story is a small one, and it should be with a cast this small and a space so isolated. It wouldn’t have worked if it were spread out to more than just the grounds of the house. Laura Lau, who also adapted the screenplay from the original Ugandan version by Oscar Estevez, was very meticulous with details. There was a lot of foreshadowing throughout the beginning of the film. As a screenwriting student, I learned that if you put a shotgun over the fireplace in the beginning of the movie, that shotgun should be used by the end of the movie. Lau used every shotgun she set up by the end, but they all went off at once. As the end of the film approached, they threw everything at you so as to wrap up quickly. In doing that, the audience was left confused and unsure of what they just saw. At risk of getting too spoilery, I won’t give specific details, but at the end, when everything is revealed and the motivation behind the actions are unveiled, I was left with a very confused look on my face. I think I actually said, “Wait… Really?” out loud.
Overall, I was unsatisfied. ‘Silent House’ had me at the beginning. I was legitimately freaked out and uneasy for a while because of the uncomfortable silences, the scenes lit only by lanterns, and the general ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ feel to the whole thing. However, unlike that classic Nick show from my childhood, the events that took place were not explained well and we were left with so many loose ends once the credits began to roll.
Ok, this paragraph is a *SPOILER* so proceed with caution. Just skip it if you actually plan on seeing this movie. One instance that specifically left me unsatisfied was the very end. It was so confusing. Sarah goes through the whole ordeal with her father and her uncle getting hurt by the intruder, and then she discovers that the girl from the beginning of the movie, Sophia, is the intruder, which I called from a mile away. And then it’s revealed that Sophia and Laura are the same person. What? Really? Then the final scene in the film shows Laura walking out the door. Over her shoulder, the back room where a whole literal bloody mess of things just happened comes into focus and there’s nothing there. So Laura was crazy the whole time and it happened in her head? I HAVE NO IDEA! I don’t mind ambiguous endings, but I’d like to be provided with enough information in the film so I’d at least be able to understand what was going on somewhat.
Ok, no more spoilers. The last thing I’ll say about this is that the major downfall of ‘Silent House’ can be attributed to the lack of storytelling. I think that if they didn’t squish in all the important details at the end, then it would have been more enjoyable. Instead, we were left with a movie that was mostly reaction shots, creepy noises, and really dark scenes due to the fact that all the windows in the house were boarded up and the electricity was out. If they bulked up exposition a bit in Act I, then revealed more during Act II, then the huge reveal at the end would have made more sense. Bleeding toilets from the ceiling and bleeding hallway walls were not the way to make sense of things.
I wouldn’t recommend seeing this movie unless this uninterrupted, one take style of horror film looks interesting to you. Other than that, there’s not much else going on in this film. I actually heard a movie theater patron say that it was a waste of time to sit through it. With that said, on my infamous five-star scale, ‘Silent House’ gets a 2 because it had me a bit in the beginning but lost me by the end. Hopefully Elizabeth Olsen has some awesome things lined up next because she definitely has potential. Just not if she keeps doing crappy movies like this one.