Posted by: chance47 | 08/04/2012

Home Viewing: Silent House – Or Stupid Girl Why Did You Do That?

It’s no secret that my favorite films are horror films.  I will watch the schlockiest of all the schlock.  The slashiest of the slash.  The goriest of the gore.  But what really tingles my butt hairs are those rare horror films that make me breath with the characters on screen (see: “The Descent”).  If they’re scared, I wanted to be scared.  If they’re holding their breath, then I better be gasping soon.

“Silent House” a remake of a film from Uruguay (another trend in horror that Imma ’bout to pop off on) has an amazing first act the sadly unravels more quickly than its 88 minute running time.  The film’s conceit is that it was shot in one single continuous take.  I had my doubts watching the movie that was even possible.  Sure enough, informs me that it wasn’t actually.  While that disappoints me a little, it hardly takes away from the groove and mood of the film.   As the camera follows the characters in fluid and smooth motions (the movie mostly avoids the equally annoying “shaky cam” technique that too many films rely on nowadays), it draws you into the world of the film.  Draws you into the “Silent House”.

The movie centers on Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, yes…the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley…no I’m not linking to them) a young girl who has taken a trip with her father to what appears to be their families country vacation home.  It has been repeatedly vandalized and fallen into a horrible state of disrepair.  At the house Sarah meets her Uncle Peter who has been fixing and documenting the damage to the house.  He’s also there to keep away some pesky squatters who have been using the house as a temporary home.

As Sarah works with her father to pack up the house, she begins to hear strange noises and rumblings within the house.  The setup is classic.   What makes this movie (again, especially the first act) different is that the camera allows the viewers to feel like we are in the house right there with them.   When a thump from above startles Sarah, we breath with her.  “Silent House” is definitely good for the jump-scares that most people pay twelve dollars to see when they pick the horror film at the box office.

I will not delve too much into the plot of the film, as there are some twists and turns that if spoiled would render the movie pointless (but honestly if you are a self-respecting horror film fanatic then, like me, you probably had it figured it out around the halfway point).

What makes the film largely successful is the harrowing performance by Elizabeth Olsen.   Olsen, who was especially amazing in the startling and terrific “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, takes on the rite of passage that all young Hollywood ingenues must take.   The final girl in a horror film (Jamie Lee, thank you).

But Olsen elevates this role with her more than considerable talent.   Never mugging, never over-acting, she quietly and gradually becomes completely unraveled in front of our eyes and it is an amazing performance.

It’s ultimately disappointing then, when the final act of the film fails to deliver.   There are clever but overdone shots and creepy visuals of the house, full of mold and poorly executed metaphors, that tend to smack you in the face rather than get under your skin.

“Silent House” is worth a view for Olsen’s performance alone, but the character of the House cannot stand on its on foundation.



  1. Good review! I haven’t gotten to The Silent House yet (though I WILL) but I did see the Uruguayan original. It was really slow during some parts, and I’m not 100% sure if I liked the final twist (but I’m going to be really nice and not spoil it even though I really want to). It was a lot more creative and well done than many horror films done lately, though. I think Spanish language films are the best thing happening in horror right now.

    • Agreed. What with the Recs all being amazing. Keeping a close eye.

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