Sunday, December 9, 2012

Movie Review: Silent House (2012)

Movies like Silent House are tough for me to form a strong opinion about. My initial reaction tells me that I should say that it's great, because it kept me totally transfixed until the end, and because I was immensely impressed with the filmmaking technique used (more on that in a bit). On the other hand, the climax seems like one of those contrived rip-offs that everyone always complains about. Can I stand by my belief that you shouldn't turn your back on the whole movie just because you don't like the ending? Let's see...

Silent House is actually a remake of a fairly recent film from Uruguay called La Casa Muda (The Silent House). It is the story of Sarah, a girl who goes to the family's summer house with her father John and Uncle Peter to fix up the place before selling it. Strange noises first make the dark house unsettling, and then terrifying as Sarah realizes someone else may be stalking her, and there is no way out.

Now, what this film (and the original) is known for - and what you should notice pretty quickly - is that it is in real time, supposedly in one long continuous take. Though nothing new, the technique is still fairly rare as far as I know and of the movies I've seen that utilize it, it's always been a success. Silent House pulls it off well. Of course, they don't actually use one hour-and-a-half long take for the movie - edits are hidden in there in 12 to 15 minute intervals - but the effect is pretty well flawless and impressive.

The movie starts on an overhead crane shot of Sarah sitting on some rocks in a lake, and then goes down to follow her as she walks into the house. From then on, the very crafty cameraperson is able to go from room to room, down hallways and stairs, through cramped spaces in the basement, outside following Sarah as she's running, and inside a vehicle and out of it again. Really, the variety and dexterity of the shots and compositions was wonderful to watch. It very rarely felt like a "shaky cam" type of movie except in the above mentioned part where Sarah is running outside. The only real visual problem I had with Silent House is how some of the very dark scenes came out looking on my Netflix. Very pixel-y and very much a bit of a distraction from the movie.

Now if there's one thing that wouldn't before have popped into my head when thinking about horror movies (or "thrillers" as this one is billed) is anybody from the Olsen family. Elizabeth Olsen is the younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley, and I'm sorry, but she got all the talent. She does look a lot like her famous twin sisters, but I guess the absence of all the baggage from being a huge child star did her a lot of good. Olsen got wonderful reviews for her role in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and while she kinda just does a lot of frightened, contorted-face things in Silent House, I enjoyed her performance. She's able to turn on a dime pretty well in some of the last scenes, she has a pleasant voice, and for someone who is on-camera for nearly every single second of the movie, she just all around does an amazing job.

Okay, the ending. I guess I won't totally spoil it here, even though I really, REALLY want to. I can be more vague because my problem with the ending is not so much the story ending itself but rather the logic, or lack of, behind. Let's just say that it's a psychological thing that happens, okay? Similar endings have been used before, and guess what? They didn't make any sense then either. It's like the writers and filmmakers made up their own way for certain types of psychoses to emerge without caring how they are actually manifested in people suffering from PTSD or repressed memories or whatever. So while the audience may initially think, "Well, huh, I didn't see that coming! That's kind of cool!", stopping to think about it will make them think, "Well, how did she... why did they... who is... what is the point of..." about several things that are revealed in the climax. It's not necessarily a lazy ending or a cop-out to me, it just brings up more questions than answers.

Regardless, I like the movie. The effect of the single shot technique, the intrigue of the mystery, and the film being carried by a pretty competent actress are enough to let me overlook - or at least set aside for the moment - the ending. There are a good number of jump scares (I think I actually 'yelped' at one of them... don't think I've ever done that before) but mostly the movie is this like this confusing, but in a good way, labyrinthine journey through this house and through Sarah's mind. I'm giving it a thumbs-up. I dug it.


  1. I agree with you 100%! I really liked the movie and I can totally respect what the director did for the way it filmed. I loved it! And it takes a lot of patience and talent!

  2. I love the single shot technique! It makes things feel so nonstop and it takes a certain precision to get those shots down like RQoF said! I haven't seen this one but I do love me a "labyrinthine journey!" :) Thanks for sharing!

  3. Netflix has been recommending this to me but I've been putting it off because it sounded pretty typical of the genre. But now finding out that it's all as one single shot really sells me on it. Going to check this one out now for sure. Thanks!

  4. not a big fan of both movies, but I actually prefer the remake, mainly because of Olsen's surprisingly great performance.