EXPERIENCE 88 MINUTES OF REAL FEAR CAPTURED IN REAL TIME. This is the tagline on one of the promotional posters for the newly released thriller film "Silent House," a remake of the recent Uruguayan film "La Casa Muda."
Filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, who previously made the 2003 horror film "Open Water," have once again striven to create a terrifying experience for the audience with a creative “small-scale production” feel.
"Silent House" stars Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of the infamous twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
Olsen plays Sarah, a young woman who visits her family’s old lake house, along with her father, John (Adam Trese) and her uncle, Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens). John and Peter are closing up the house and moving out.
The run-down house has faulty electricity, moldy walls, and old creaky floorboards. To keep away squatters and vandalizing teenagers, every door is padlocked and every window is boarded shut. No one can enter or exit the house without the proper key: the film’s ultimate setup. In very little time, things go horribly wrong while the actors are trapped inside the house.
It is apparent to anyone who has seen the film, or merely seen the trailer, that the entire film rests on Olsen’s shoulders. Once the beginning of the movie sets up that her Uncle is gone and her father has been beaten unconscious, the bulk of the movie is spent watching Sarah tiptoe throughout the house while carrying a lantern or a flashlight. She moves through every room and hallway looking for a way out of the house, while simultaneously trying to hide from the evil person who seems to be inside the house with her.
Olsen delivers an effective performance that is well deserved of recognition. She appears in almost every single second of the film. And since a majority of the film has no dialogue, the main thing the audience has to rely on to engage their interest is Olsen’s facial expressions and occasional screams.
In recent years, the horror genre has seen an explosion of “found footage” gimmick-based films (such as "Chronicle," "Apollo 18," and the "Paranormal Activity" films). As a refreshing break from this genre bandwagon, "Silent House" seeks to employ another tactic: the plot events unfold in real time while the movie is presented as one long continuous shot. This gimmick is the main fuel that drives the entire film.
These “small-scale” horror films often split fans of the genre. Many of these gimmick-based productions use long silences and false buildups in order to build suspense and terror.
What filmmakers of these productions are banking on is the notion that “what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see.” Audience members can find these slow-building films either incredibly engaging or painfully boring. And "Silent House" definitely falls into that trap as well. This film will be both loved and hated by horror fans.
A film with this setup is definitely worth seeing in the theater. Most of the scares come from nearby footsteps, or figures luring in the background, which are most effective in a theater with a large screen and loud speakers. Most of the scare moments, though sometimes few and far between, are quit effective in their payoff. Without leaking any specific spoilers, the most effective “scare” scene of the film involves Sarah using a Polaroid camera to light up a pitch-dark room.
In regards to the ending, again without giving away specific spoilers, it must be said that the final twist (yes every horror film is going to have a twist ending), is something that will also divide fans in their love and/or hatred for the plot’s final act.
If you get easily scared by ‘things that go bump in the night’ or creepy sounds a house can make in the darkness, then "Silent House" will probably provide you the 88 minutes of real fear (as promised by the poster). If you seek more gore and action-packed moments, then wait a few months until the film is available to rent.
♦ Matt Hodge teaches at Campbellsville University and works as a professional musician, songwriter and guest speaker. His "For Your Entertainment" blogs will review films, music, books, television and theater. To contact Hodge, visit www.matthodge.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.