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Silent House

Silent House

Released 4 May 2012
Director(s) Chris Kentis, Laura Lau

Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett, Haley Murphy
Writer(s) Laura Lau
Producer(s) Laura Lau, Agnes Mentre
Origin United States France
Running Time 88 minutes
Genre Drama, horror, thriller
Rating 16

Viewing recommended.

The poster for Silent House advertises it as “Real fear captured in real time.” Its gimmick (because every horror film these days seems to need one) is that the directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (creators of the ‘edge of your dinghy’ shark thriller Open Water) use long takes with as little editing as possible to create the impression that the action is happening in real time. In a recent interview with horror magazine Fangoria, Lau and Kentis admit that it was this unusual filming method that made them jump at the chance to remake Silent House (originally a Uruguayan film). This is obvious from the finished product, which is a classic case of form over content.

The film takes place in an isolated lakehouse that was once the holiday home for a young woman named Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen). Now it has fallen into disrepair and along with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens), Sarah is spending a few days preparing the house to be sold. In the darkened rooms, Sarah becomes separated from the men and it becomes clear that there is a dark force stalking her.

It’s a simple haunted house set-up upon which to hang the elaborate choreography of the structure. Filmed in a real house as opposed to a studio set, every movement of the actors and crew had to be precisely timed. Impressive...but does it have a point? Well actually yes. As a means of building tension, the real time gimmick is extremely effective in creating an immersive experience. Olsen’s performance enhances this feeling - we are with her throughout the film and her fear is palpable and infectious.

If only Silent House could have quit while it was ahead this would have been the end of a positive review. But no. Instead of leaving the film as an hour long exercise in tension and fear, all the good work is undone by a clunky, incongruous explanation; one I saw coming throughout the film but hoped would never rear its preposterous head. What a shame. The main body of the film is still sufficiently impressive to make it worth a watch but be prepared for a disappointing finish.

- Linda O’Brien