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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Dueling ‘Silent House’ Reviews


    Presented in a single continuous take, the film from “Open Water” helmers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau is a surprisingly intense hour of claustrophobic terror, capped by a resolution so bizarrely lame as to nearly ruin everything that preceded it that warrants being reviewed in two parts.

    Part one: The horror film

    “Silent House” follows Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), a young woman working to restore her family’s lakeside cabin with her uncle and father. When a mysterious intruder locks her inside, she frantically goes on the run, scrambling from room to shadowy room in hopes of evading capture and figuring out who — or what — is doing this. As a mysterious man picks off her family, the film unveils the killer’s motive and circumstances force Sarah to ultimately buckle down and fight for her life.

    “Silent House” presents itself as being filmed in one take, and boy, is it effective. Our constant closeness to Sarah, accompanied by the camera’s refusal to ever cut, at times makes us feel like we’re in just as much danger as she is, with the killer waiting right outside the frame for us to turn around and discover him.

    This anxiety stretches unrepressed across an entire hour, with moments that startled the ever-loving hell out of me until I’m quietly begging the filmmakers to make it stop. It’s exhausting, yes, but could we really ask for anything more?

    Performance-wise, Olsen is marvelously convincing, even when everyone else isn’t, and the film benefits. In the hands of a lesser actor, “Silent House” may have come off as a contrived joke, but Olsen is unwaveringly committed to the situation the filmmakers have handed her. There’s a killer in the house, she’s trapped inside with him — and she expresses her terror convincingly, elevating the material notches above the premise.

    Add to this that she is mind-numbingly hot, and you’ve got a horror flick with just about everything going for it. An hour in, I was all but convinced “Silent House” would get a stellar grade.

    Part two: The ending to the horror film

    So what screws it all up? As if convinced a serial killer and a girl in an abandoned cabin isn’t scary enough, the filmmakers attempt to pay off everything up to this point with an explanation so amateurish and clichéd, it borders on being insulting.

    This isn’t to say paying off a high-concept horror premise is easy, but the solution Kentis and Lau apply is simply awful, and it all but ruins the film. Viewers can’t help feeling the rug has been pulled out from under them, and to make matters worse, the film continues for a groan-inducing 15 extra minutes after the “twist.”

    What results, then, is a peculiar feeling that “Silent House” sucks, even though (for the most part) it’s actually quite good.

    Were it not all done in one take, I might have maintained hope for an alternate ending once “Silent House” hit DVD. As it stands, though, the film should be taken for exactly what it is: a mostly scary, well-performed, impressively shot horror flick. Just turn it off 20 minutes early to avoid disappointment.

    *Grade C *

    – Josh Weisman

    About halfway through “Silent House,” when the audience is treated to the umpteenth shot of a crying woman calling meekly into the darkness for help, an older man in front of me audibly yawned.

    “Yep,” he said aloud. “I’m really scared now.”

    Nothing, besides maybe my date asking if I wanted to walk out of the theater, better encapsulates how complete of a failure this film is. It’s an incompetent mix of half-baked ideas thrown together to create a mishmash of abject suck.

    As the movie plodded on, my mind began to wander. For instance, I wondered what kind of camera the film used. It must have been small enough that the camera person could carry it as they ran around and tried in vain to produce in-focus shots. I wondered how many strangely prominent freckles the leading lady had on her face. (As of press time, the final tally was seven.) But one question lingered: Why?

    Why are there long, random periods of uninterrupted darkness? Why does the dialogue sound so stilted? And why does the movie, at its very end, decide to pretend it has a plot outside of the archetypal “bad men who are bad chase attractive woman around for an hour and a half”?

    One of the reasons this movie looked appealing was because it was shot in one continuous take. There’s nothing inherently wrong with creative cinematography. I’d even go so far as to call it refreshing to see a horror movie that tries to break the exhaustive shaky-cam stagnation the genre has been subjected to since “Cloverfield.”

    But it should raise a red flag when your camerawork looks like the unwanted lovechild of your dad’s home movies and a high school film project, or when the audience can’t tell what the hell they’re looking at. It’s a cheap way to manufacture tension and, like most cheap things, it unravels fairly quickly.

    I could forgive all of the film’s fundamental failures if it wasn’t such a bore, but I’ve had eye exams with more tension than this. The movie’s just not scary. Occasionally it shows a little girl wandering around. That’s not scary. Then things go all dark and all you can hear is ragged inhalation. Knock knock, who’s there? Not scary. The movie fundamentally fails in all facets as a fright fest, and it suffers woefully as a result.

    The only thing redeemable about “Silent House” is that it’s one of the few movies out right now that’s not a sequel, remake, re-imagining or reboot, and even that is hardly heady praise in the face of such gems as “The Lorax” and “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”

    But hey, if your air conditioner is on the fritz, and you’d like a quiet place to nap for a while, I would highly recommend this film. Just don’t be surprised if the audience’s laughter wakes you up.

    Grade: F

    – Luke Money

    Movie info

    Year: 2011
    Rating: R
    Runtime: 88 minutes
    Genre: drama, thriller, horror
    Directors: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
    Stars: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens

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