SILENT House is a Hollywood remake of the 2010 Uruguayan film, La Casa Muda, supposedly based on an actual event.
More interesting is the fact that the film is about a story that happens in real-time (it’s edited to appear as a single uninterrupted shot).
The film follows the adventures of young Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) who is helping her dad, John (Adam Trese), and uncle, (Eric Sheffer Stevens), to clean up the family vacation home in order to sell it off.
The bad part is that it’s located in some secluded seaside location and it’s been broken into by squatters. So all the broken windows and alternate entry doors have to be boarded up or locked to keep people from breaking in.
On top of that, there’s no electricity, probably because rats may have been nibbling at the wiring. The three are forced to work with portable lamps and torchlights in the dark, stifling and creaky house. So it’s naturally ripe for some terror inspiring moments.
Things do get terrifying for fidgety Sarah when she finds herself trapped in the dark house. Her initial belief that there may be someone or something upstairs eventually becomes real.
This indie horror thriller takes its cue from Paranormal Activity although it doesn’t follow the “found footage” concept. So the audience gets a voyeuristic experience of the happenings without a solid reason for why the camera is following the lead character.
At times, the real-time aspect, coupled with an isolated location and minimal character setup, makes watching Silent House like sitting through a surreal play at the theatre.
There’s plenty of atmosphere, and effective claustrophobic moments in the film although the series of jolts and carefully planted scares along the way do wear out fast.
Some of the scenes that alternate between low lit and pitch black conditions are creepy but don’t expect gratuitous gore or splatter.
The film relies on the capable delivery of Olsen, the 23-year-old younger sibling of the famous Olsen twins.
Although there’s little dialogue and script to fall back on, she surprisingly emotes well and her reactions to the various happenings around her add to the credibility of the otherwise simple story.
The only drawback is that she is a damsel in distress, which makes the character a little irritating at times. It doesn’t help that the audience doesn’t get a chance to know the characters more deeply, especially when the story hinges on their relationships.
The film is visually interesting though. Shot with handheld cameras on location, with 12-minute takes cleverly edited to appear as one smooth-flowing narrative, it has a fitting raw look and feel.
A little shaky during certain scenes, it doesn’t go overboard into vomit-inducing territory. One cool scene has a frantically running Sarah, going in and out of focus in an artfully orchestrated blur.
Story-wise, Silent House is standard horror fare with a few scares but the film is technically impressive. Overall it’s worth a watch, if only to see how the filmmakers deliver some unsettling dark atmosphere in real-time.
Directed by Chris Kentis & Laura Lau
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens
Duration 89 minutes