I was startled and shocked by the new horror film Silent House, not only due to its extreme edge-of-your-seat scares and suspense, but because this movie was infinitely better than I thought it would be. It is unfortunately being promoted as a gimmicky real-time slasher-style movie with no edits, but it is much deeper than the cinematic trick that is on its surface. This is an early contender for the best horror/suspense film of the year.
The film stars Elizabeth (Lizzie) Olsen as Sarah, a young woman who is helping her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) refurbish their isolated lakeside family home until one evening when things go drastically awry. To give away more than that would ruin the fun behind this unique and satisfyingly intense movie, which is actually a remake of a Spanish-language film from Uruguay (The Silent House.)
With Silent House, Ms. Olsen, who is the younger sister of the Olsen twins (Mary-Kate and Ashley), rockets miles ahead of her siblings on both an acting level and a healthiness level, as she has a lot more “meat on the bones” (so to speak) in both areas. She is completely believable and does not miss a beat in this 88 minute take that had to be incredibly stressful to complete. She had me unconsciously holding my breath with her as she tries to hide from the assailants in this film. This is going to be a young actress to keep an eye on and I can see this film sending her to stardom in the same way Halloween did for a young Jamie Lee Curtis.
Directed by Chris Kentis (Open Water), the staging, lighting, choreography and cinematography (by Igor Martinovic) in this movie are spot-on and extremely impressive. The movie was allegedly shot in one complete take, but there are a couple of places, when the screen goes dark, where an edit could have been possible. But I’m happy to give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, because in the end it all looks seamless, and is a major achievement on just a technical level alone.
I applaud the creators of this film for their minimal use of visual blood and violence, and instead going with inventive camera work and suspense. Most of the horror in this movie happens off camera, proving that what you don’t see if often more terrifying than what is on screen. The makers of the Saw and Final Destination films could learn a lot from this much better film.
Silent House gets props on an artistic level as well. I imagine if you gave David Lynch a handheld movie camera and told him he had to put together a horror film without edits, he might have done something like this movie. There are twists and turns that I never saw coming and that I spent the better part of the evening trying to piece together in my head – and as a Lynch fan, I mean this as a compliment. If you enjoy eccentric and avant-garde film-making, then you are in for a real treat, and you may even go back for more.