March 11, 2012 by Matthew T.
Directed By: Chris Kentis & Laura Lau
Written By: Gustavo Hernández & Laura Lau
Eric Sheffer Stevens
There is nothing worse than fear: it is intangible, invisible, and irrepressible. Fear is the moment that lies between awareness and resolution — when we realize the horror of what is about to happen. Fear is the unknown: the how bad will it be, and the when will it happen? You cannot cope with fear… you can only bear it. It is the ultimate test. When a young woman (Sarah) becomes trapped inside a pitch black house with an unknown home invader, she must face her greatest fears, and fight to stay alive.
Touting itself as “88 minutes of real-time terror”, SILENT HOUSE successfully gives the impression that the entire movie is one continuous shot. It is in these ultra-extended scenes that actress Elizabeth Olson shines. Infusing her performance with a never-ceasing intensity, she takes us with her through every step of her nightmarish ordeal. With an expressive face and natural ability to emote, we feel every ounce of her dread, every quiver in her breath, and every tremble in her body.
SILENT HOUSE is a well executed and technically solid film from start to finish. By playing on our expectations of how jump-scares usually work, the filmmakers set-up scene after scene which lead us to believe the moment of payoff is just around the corner. Since the film is 90% close angle shots, we’re constantly wringing our hands waiting for something to leap out at us from behind a door, around a corner, through a window, or anywhere else in the darkened corridors of the house. Aware of this, the film becomes an exercise in build-up and denial, keeping us on the edge of our seats and refusing us a visible glimpse of what we’re so afraid of. Herein lies the brilliance of SILENT HOUSE.
Channeling the intensity of HAUTE TENSION and the atmosphere of REC, SILENT HOUSE proves in almost every way that it has learned from the past forty years of horror cinema, and is able to effectively drive an audience to the brink of unbridled terror. The most primal fear of humankind — the fear of the unknown — is the driving force behind SILENT HOUSE. Neither Sarah, nor we, are able to rationalize or understand the pressing question of why these events are unfolding. The need for closure and explanation is the bane of the modern horror film, and although sadly SILENT HOUSE falls victim to this by the end, the first 60 minutes are pure, untainted fear.
By sprinkling a few explanatory breadcrumbs throughout the film, we are able to piece together enough to hazard a guess, but not enough to ascertain the truth with any reasonable degree of certainty. If they had simply cut the last ten minutes of the film and skipped the explanatory resolution, they would have created a perfect horror movie. It should be noted, that SILENT HOUSE is a remake of the original LA CASA MUDA (THE SILENT HOUSE) which is an Argentinian horror film released only in 2010. Currently, I have not had the opportunity to see it, so I can’t say how the remake compares or differs. In past situations (a la QUARANTINE vs. REC, or LET THE RIGHT ONE IN vs. LET ME IN) I tend to heavily prefer the original, regardless of how often times the remakes are almost shot-for-shot. What continually astounds me is how little time it takes for foreign horror films to receive the Hollywood remake treatment. But I digress…
SILENT HOUSE is nonetheless worthy of your time and attention. Prepare to be thrilled, scared, and once again, afraid of the dark (for the first hour, at any rate).