Synopsis: SILENT HOUSE is a uniquely unsettling horror thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, a young woman who finds herself sealed inside her family’s secluded lake house. With no contact to the outside world, and no way out, panic turns to terror to terror as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house. Directed by filmmaking duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, SILENT HOUSE uses meticulous camera choreography to take the audience on a tension-filled, real time journey, experienced in a single uninterrupted shot.
Release Date: March 9, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
Elizabeth Olsen had an excellent 2011 with her acclaimed performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene. Her newest film being released is Silent House, a horror film that puts her at the center of a nightmare. The film will also secure her place as having a face made for showcasing terror.
Silent House is the story of Sarah (Olsen), her father John (Adam Trese), and Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) who are all staying at the lake house they used to frequent when Sarah was a child. It has since fallen into disrepair and the three of them are fixing it to sell. The house does not have electricity, the windows are all boarded up because the glass had been broken by squatters, and there aren’t any neighbors in close proximity–all in all, the perfect set-up for a horror movie. It all begins when Sarah hears a noise, and then her father goes missing, and her Uncle has left the property to take a break from the fighting he and his brother have been experiencing. Sarah is all alone, afraid, and those things that go bump in the dark are creeping up all around her.
The paranoia sets in for Sarah as she searches the house with only a lantern in her hand, tries to break out windows, and finds all the doors locked. The basement seems to have an escape route but that holds other dark secrets. Silent House builds up the tension and fear one would expect from a horror movie but that is not what makes it enjoyable to watch; the gimmick here, that grabs your attention, is that the entire film is one long-shot following Sarah’s point-of-view. Cinematographer Igor Martinovic makes use of every possible convention to keep the one long-take from feeling stale. There are the mirrored reflections, the canted angles, a variety of POV shots from Sarah’s own eyes scanning spaces, and of course the use of sound is very important to Silent House. The use of silence also becomes imperative to heighten the suspense, and Olsen’s terrifying screams, heavy breathing, and wide-eyed fear filled eyes do wonders for the film as a whole.
The payoff is that the film actually succeeds with the one long-shot, until the very end that is and well, you may feel a bit confused. You may also get the sense that you have been duped the entire time and that the “gimmick” actually fails itself in the end–all completely acceptable responses to Silent House, but regardless of how you feel it is a great ride up to the perplexing choices at the end.
The one-shot film; that is what everyone will be talking about after seeing Silent House. That, and Elizabeth Olsen’s terrified face, but the one-long-take is really the star of the film. As an American remake of the Spanish film La Casa Muda, Silent House‘s plot is not rich with originality, nor does it have an altogether surprising ending. What it does do is pull off the unthinkable for 85 minutes; there is only one long-take, and no edits. Now, there are of course edits, but they are invisible edits, and only a very trained eye will catch the actual edits in the film. It appears nearly flawless, and destined to be a movie filmmakers watch over and over again to try and see where the invisible edits are, and where they may have failed, a la Children of Men.
The reality is that cinematographer Igor Martinovic and an uncredited Editor (playing into the unbroken camera shot ideal) have created a horror film that is more terrifying than it ever would have been because of the use of a single take, following Elizabeth Olsen’s Sarah as she is trapped inside the house. The camera never leaves her, even in the pitch black space of a room you hear her breathing. Every sound that occurs off-camera remains off-camera unless Sarah decides to investigate it and thus brings the camera along with her. This is where the terror of the film is amplified. As Sarah is blind to what is happening in the other rooms of the house or as to what is making noises so are you as a viewer. There is never a cut to show the intruder, or a break away edit to another character who may be good or evil. Everything is subjective from Sarah’s point-of-view and it is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, if you let yourself succumb to the fun, and gimmick, that is the horror movie Silent House. The editing and cinematography surely want you to dive in and see it all with Sarah, and it makes for a fun ride if you allow yourself to do just that.
The interesting thing about the emotional connection you feel while watching Silent House is that you do not find yourself scared. There is no need to cover your eyes, or any moments that make you jump out of your seat. The film is frightening but from a third-party perspective. You understand the terror Sarah is feeling, emphasize with her predicament, but because of the fact the film is done all in one shot it actually takes away from the viewer being scared themselves. You are more interested in the aesthetics of the film, and how the filmmakers are pulling off the one long-take, than actually feeling scared over the events that are occurring. Possibly because most of what does occur is not scary, because not much is actually happening, expect for what Sarah thinks is happening in the house. As a viewer you are consistently doubtful of what is occurring, and always suspicious over what will happen next. The perplexing nature of Silent House‘s filmed technique makes it more of an experiment in terror on screen than one a viewer becomes a part of. There will not be any nightmares after watching Silent House but plenty of areas for discussion.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Chris Kentis
- Producer(s): Laura LauAgnes Mentre
- Screenwriter(s): Laura Lau
- Cast: Elizabeth Olsen (Sarah)Adam Trese (John)Eric Sheffer Stevens (Peter) Julia Taylor Ross (Sophia)Adam Barnett (Stalking Man)Haley Murphy (Little Girl)
- Cinematographer: Igor Martinovic
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Lynn Falconer
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Nathan Larson
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USAFrance