Review: Silent House left me silent…

In Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s Silent House (remake of the 2010 Uruguay horror film La Casa Muda), the audience is taken on an 85-minute, one camera point of view of Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) inside the house as well as in her mind. Like Alfred Hitchcock’s 1948 film ROPE (which was very trippy), Silent House is shot with one camera, and used natural lighting from the outdoors and the light the cast held.

Silent House
Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
Written by Laura Lau
Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens and Julia Taylor Ross

The movie begins with Sarah sitting on a rock near the lake. She gets up and heads towards her run-downed childhood summer home that her family is working on to sell. Her father (Adam Trese) drives up to the house. They seem to have a close and open relationship – he is her friend on Facebook and she works for him, but at the same time – I felt like they were distant from each other.

Her uncle Peter is in the house already. You really don’t know the relationship between them because he looks her age, but then you hear her awkwardly call him “Uncle Peter”. I felt like Uncle Peter seemed a little creepy, especially when he pauses and looks at her telling her she’s “all grown up.” If the writers were trying to make him seem like he was behind something, they had the right line for him to tell her.

While her father and uncle are looking at some of the issues with the home, Sarah is visited by her childhood friend Sophia (played by the cute but creepy Julia Taylor Ross). Sophia acts as if Sarah is her best friend, but Sarah had no memory of who she was. Of course, you get an idea that Sophia is a big part of this plot. They arrange to hang out later that night.

Another noticeable thing that the movie wants you to notice is that there is a key to get in and out of the home. You see Sarah locking and unlocking the door from the inside to get out. They hang the key on the side of the door.

The scary part of the movie starts when Uncle Peter leaves. Sarah hears something upstairs, so she and her father go to investigate, but it turns out to be nothing. They go into his bedroom and they find photographs on the bed that the father quickly collects and hides from Sarah. Of course, you know he is creepy for doing that and he’s keeping a secret.

Later on, Sarah is in her room packing her childhood things into a bag. She finds a red box but no key. She ignores it and hears the noise again, and she is following the sound where her father is walking and then you hear a big boom (and you know her father has been attacked). She runs out and tries to get out of the place. They key is missing and everything is boarded up. She hears and is touched by a figure and runs back to her room. It is there that she finds her father with a big bloody gash on his head. Sarah is freaked out and finds a key on her father and tries to go out to get help.

When I first heard about this film, I mentally prepared myself for a horror film but was very disappointed in terms of horror movies. I felt like it was more like a psychological thriller because I felt there was not enough psychotic behavior – like Hitchcock’s PSYCHO. You do see Sarah frightened and screaming, but I did not get scared during her battle. I understand they were not trying to throw anyone off guard, but they didn’t show enough of Sarah breaking down psychologically, especially regarding her past abuse. I was not scared of a certain person’s crazy side at all.

I felt like the interaction between the actors was so limited, because they were trying to capture as much as 85 minutes would allow. The relationship between Sarah, her father and her uncle should had been furthered explained. Certain motives from the “enemy” left me confused.

The way this film was shot was very interesting because it used natural lighting from the outdoors and the lights the cast were holding. It gave you the sense of being in the house with them. Also, I was surprised at how the camera was able to follow Olsen around the house so closely without shaking as it captures her angles without seeing any cast or crew (no cutting). This was a very interesting way to shoot.

Overall, the filming technique was very interesting to watch. The camera angles were very good at capturing the emotion of the film (Olsen’s fear) and very different from the norm. This movie was great to watch for the style. The film crew worked really hard to not be seen in the angles and that was appreciated because I do have a pet peeve of film goofs.  As for the horror films, I was not scared watching this film and I scare easily. It was a good psychological thriller, but for a horror film, I did not feel like it was fairly categorized.

Grade: C

Major Spoilers Ahead

Initially, I predicted the father and uncle brutally raped and murdered Sarah’s childhood friend Sophia and was using Sarah to let her know what happened – similar to Halle Berry’s 2003 film GOTHIKA. Sarah doesn’t remember the abuse at all – so I assumed that someone else was abused in the home (since so many family members used the home) and the photos that her father and uncle were hiding were of another little girl. They did a good job throwing me off regarding that.

I wish the film was clearer on its storyline because the uncle was in the room taking photos of young Sarah, but why would he attack his own brother in the house. Adult Sarah remembers nothing, so I was confused on why he would attack his brother.

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