Silent House (2012)

It’s Been a Long Time.

I’m back again!  As some of you know, I was forced to take a brief hiatus from writing reviews because my computer was protesting economic inequality by constantly trying to overheat.  After the Occupy My Desk movement was ended with a new cooling unit, I am finally able to return to entertaining you.  I was drawn to today’s movie by a strange desire that bubbled up from inside me to see a movie about a haunting.  It was an itch that needed to be scratched.  When I saw today’s movie in RedBox, I decided to grab it.  I knew it was a horror movie, but was not really that positive if the movie was about a haunting or a serial killer situation.  We’ll find out together as I review Silent House, based on the Uruguayan movie La Casa Muda which was written by Gustavo Hernández, this movie was written by Laura Lau, who co-directed with Chris Kentis, and stars Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett, and Haley Murphy.

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) is helping her father (Adam Trese) and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) fix up a dilapidated old house in the countryside.  Her uncle, Peter, gets into an argument with her father, John, which causes him to take a break and head into town for a while.  Shortly after that, a girl named Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross) visits the house, claiming to be a childhood friend of Sarah’s, but Sarah has no recollection of her.  Sarah starts to hear noises as she’s cleaning out one of the rooms and sees that someone has entered the house.  While hiding from the man, she finds that her father has been hit over the head with a lamp and is unconscious.  Sarah must try to find a way out of the house as the mystery of the unknown trespasser is revealed.

There were a lot of things to find interesting in this movie, but overall it didn’t really resonate with me in any particular way.  Part of me not enjoying this movie that much was my own fault for wanting a certain type of movie but not bothering to actually find out what the movie was actually about.  You can say that there was a haunting of sorts in this movie, but that’s not really what it was about.  It plays itself more like a serial killer horror movie until the big reveal at the end, but we’ll get that that part later.  I would say that the story of this movie is actually a pretty interesting idea, and is not really to blame for me not liking it that much.  It’s not your typical horror movie and actually is more of a psychological horror movie.  There aren’t really even that many deaths in the movie, so it certainly wouldn’t be considered a slasher movie.  I’m pretty sure only one person actually dies.  Most of what I found interesting requires a ::SPOILER ALERT:: It turns out in the movie that Sarah is actually manifesting the people in the house in order to subconsciously get revenge on her father and uncle for sexually abusing her when she was a child, but she’s repressed those memories so deeply that they manifest without her knowing it.  This is something I’d never really seen in a movie before, and I always like to give a little bit of props for innovation.  Of course, this movie is based on another movie that seems to be pretty much the same movie in another language, and even that movie is said to be based on a true story, so I don’t know how many points to give it for innovation.  ::END SPOILERS::  There were a couple of nit-picks to be pointed out in the story.  The first would be that it takes its sweet damned time getting started.  It felt like the first half of the movie was Sarah and her dad doing spring cleaning on an old house, with Sarah occasionally getting distracted by noises.  Later, Sarah gets into a situation where the lights go out and she decides that the flash on a Polaroid camera is an acceptable light source.  This flashing light thing is something I’ve seen in a couple of movies recently (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and Apollo 18, I believe) and you always know how it’s going to turn out.  She’ll flash a few times, and then something will pop out and scare us on the last one.  But the flash thing doesn’t really make sense.  You’d probably be better off letting your eyes adjust to the dark rather than constantly resetting your adjusting eyes by flashing the room.

The thing that really got on my nerves was simultaneously one of the biggest reasons to talk about this movie and one of the things that got in its way the most: that it appeared to be filmed as one continuous shot.  It wasn’t, but it was filmed on a DSLR in roughly 12 minute takes and edited together to appear as if it was one continuous shot.  I hadn’t ever seen anything like that before, and I thought it was a cool idea.  I also respected it for how difficult that it probably was.  But then I started getting irritated by it.  I fucking get it!  You can drop it now!  They apparently did it both because it was what they did in the original movie and because it was supposed to make the movie more involving, as if you would feel like you were really in the scene.  I think it failed to pull off that last part.  Some people hate on found footage movies, but I feel like that’s a more involving method of filming.  You can at least understand why that person is there and what they’re doing, whether you decide to put yourself in their shoes or not.  But in this movie (were I to get to thinking I was in the shoes of the cameraman), it just felt as if I was in the room with Sarah while this stuff was going down, but I was getting annoyed that no one was paying attention to me.  Why is no one listening to me?!  I’ve literally been standing here walking around with you this entire time!  So dedicated were they to their filming style that it actually got in their own way on more than one occasion.  I understood some things being obscured because they didn’t want you to be able to see the bad guy and accidentally reveal anything, but they missed some impactful moments because they were so chained to their interesting filming techniques.  And there was one occasion where Sarah went outside because she thought she heard a noise and the camera decided to watch her through the tiny space between the door and the frame, where the hinges are, essentially taking all 46 inches of my TV and allowing me to only see a one inch bar on my screen.  Don’t be shy, cameraman.  You can go around and look through the open door to see her.  Or is that what you did last time and she got so mad that she and everyone else decided to ignore you for the rest of the movie?

There were multiple actors in this movie, but really only one performance.  Elizabeth Olsen was pretty much on camera the entire movie, doing all the heavy lifting, and everyone else just popped in for a little bit and let her get back to running around the house.  But she did do a really good job.  At first, I was so bored with the movie that I just kept trying to figure out who she looked like.  Sometimes she looked like an older version of Chloe Moretz.  Other times she looked like a younger version of Calista Flockhart.  And other times she just looked a lot like her sisters (Mary Kate and Ashley) without the eating disorder.  The movie didn’t get that much more interesting when she started running around the house and hiding under tables, but I did start to realize that the cameraman everyone was giving the silent treatment to was really mostly interested in pointing the camera down her shirt.  I wasn’t mad at him for it.  But when Sarah starts getting scared, Olsen really starts to show off her acting chops.  She did a really good job.  Sure, lots of actresses have had to run around and hide in horror movies, but she was particularly good at it.  The terror she displayed was very believable, and I especially liked the little silent scream she did when she was hiding under the table with the intruder in the same room looking for her.  She did a few things that got on my nerves though, but they were more writing issues than her fault.  When she was looking around the house with Peter (who had a gun), I don’t know why she allowed herself to get separated from him.  Don’t you want to be with the guy that’s armed if shit goes down?  And you know the second he goes off camera he’s going to get knocked out and the gun will get taken away.  Also, how are you going to just sit under a table and watch as some crazy guy drags an innocent little girl off to suffer God knows what atrocities?

Overall, I thought Silent House was a cool idea that was poorly executed.  Granted, this movie was a remake, but I thought the general idea of the movie was a really good one, but it would’ve worked much better if they made it like a normal movie.  Their gimmick of making the movie look like it was a continuous shot was interesting at first, then it just seemed to get in the way, and then it just got irritating.  And, sadly, I felt they got in the way so much that even the interesting idea of the story and the fantastic performance from Elizabeth Olsen couldn’t really redeem this movie.  I would say you’re better off just reading the story of the movie on Wikipedia and believing me when I tell you that Olsen did a great job.  That’s about all you really need out of the movie anyway.  Silent House gets “Who are you?  What do you want?” out of “God, I should have never added you…”

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