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"Silent House" Review

A scared girl in an empty house. Haven't seen that one before. So how do the makers of Silent House bring something new to the party? By presenting the whole movie as a single "uninterrupted" shot. Now, this has been done before by Alfred Hitchcock with Rope (where cuts were "hidden" by people backing into the camera lens), and Russian Ark was shot on HD video on a Steadicam, but filmmakers Laura Lau and Chris Kentis (who did Open Water back in 2003) attempt to make this a more dynamic experience with moderate success.

Elizabeth Olsen stars as a girl helping her father and uncle close up the family lake house at dusk. They've had problems with people breaking in, so the doors are locked and windows are boarded up, the power is off, the phone isn't hooked up, and there's no cell reception. Only candles, lanterns, and flashlights provide light. Oooooh, spooky. As the uncle goes off into town for supplies, daddy-daughter night rapidly goes sideways as noises are heard, daddy is gravely injured and someone (something?) lurks in the shadows, stalking little Lizzy O.

While there are eventually some decent chiller moments beyond the usual LOUDNOISEBOO! jolts, unfortunately, the movie is kneecapped hard out of the box with some incredibly stilted dialog and acting from the male leads. No one acts like a recognizable human would. The actor playing the father (Adam Trese) in particular is so bad that I wonder if he's even seen a man relate to an adult daughter or whether he thought he was a professor putting the moves on a co-ed.

Frankly, I almost shut Silent House off in the first 10 minutes because the downside of the one-shot format means that there's no choice but to leave all the downtime between developments in. Think about 88 minutes of your life. How much of that would be entertaining to others? Exactly. Only my interest in how the film was shot and a blase curiosity of how it was all going to be explained in the end kept me watching.

Olsen does her best to hold our attention and does pretty well considering there's almost no character for her to play other than some eye-rollingly obvious foreshadowing in spots and the script going crazy at the end as it attempts to twist, twist, and then twist some more like M. Night Shyamalan doing gymnastics, only to end up in a "What just happened?" heap. In the end, it's all a waste of time.

The most impressive aspect is how well they hide the cuts between takes. I'm fairly savvy as to how they'd do it, but in several spots the only tell-tale was the continuity errors in the blood on her. Note where the blood is in this shot:

Check the coverage: Big splotch on her left breast and shirt, some on her skin in the middle of her chest, some near the top of her shirt on her right breast. Now peep this:

Blood gone on her skin, almost gone on her right side, different on the left. (These aren't great examples, but I'm not going to take custom screenshots for what I'm getting paid for this review, OK?) The first time I spotted a cut in the film was when she first got blood on her, because it was a sizable blob on her chest, right above the swelling curves of her lush creamy breasts and.............excuse me, I just went to my happy place, where was I? Oh, yeah...and then that blood disappears and never reappears. Blood spatter on her face also comes and goes. Now, continuity errors are their own cottage industry on the Internet, but a drinking game based around changes in the blood stains on Olsen's joy globes would likely lead to harm, so in the words of Kurt Loder, don't do it.

Despite a good performance (singular) and some clever camera work, Silent House doesn't amount to much in the end (or any other part), so it's hard to make much positive noise about.

Score: 4/10. Catch it on cable.

By the way, the "based on true events" means Silent House is based on a 2010 Uruguayan movie called The Silent House which was allegedly based on something that happened in the 1940s there. Yeah, that means it's all made up.


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