Directed By: Chris Kentis & Laura Lau
Runtime: 85 minutes
With a total cast of six, two of which play ghosts with merely seconds of screen time here and there, "Silent House" was a one-man, or shall I say a one-woman show. Only few films can pull this off effectively. Two that come to mind include "Cast Away" starring Tom Hanks and "Robinson Crusoe" starring Pierce Brosnan. Unfortunately, "Silent House" does not follow suit. Instead, the viewer is exposed to 85 minutes of dark sets, shaky cameras, awkward angles, and little dialogue, which left me scratching my head, wondering what the heck is going on.
The film stars Elizabeth Olsen who plays Sarah, a teenager who is visiting a summer home with her father, who is trying to renovate and sell the house. I must admit, the interaction between Sarah and her father was so strange in the beginning that I questioned whether or not she was his wife (you never know). The way a father interacts with his daughter does not appear normal on any level in this film. The clipped dialogue and odd mannerisms were just plain weird. Anyways, moving onwards. Sarah is in her bedroom packing some boxes when she hears a loud thud. Immediately, she tenses up and her breathing quickens as she quietly opens her bedroom door to investigate. She shakily calls out to her father, who doesn't respond. Shortly after, we find that her father is apparently dead, bleeding from the head. Sarah runs downstairs to get out of the house, but the doors are locked and she cannot open them. Additionally, all the windows in the house have been boarded up due to squatters entering the house. While Sarah is panicking, we see an unfocused image of a man standing in the hallway - and he is not her dad.
"Silent House" preys on all the classic scary movie gimmicks. Dark sets, close-up angles on the victim to enhance the emotional collapse, and of course the use of a creepy old house, complete with basements, attics, and creaking baseboards. For a film that likely had a restricted budget, the use of the set was well done. I surely wouldn't want to be alone in this house. Olsen's performance was effective as far as looking scared and freaked out. The lack of dialogue makes me unsure as to how she would do given a role that requires more acting. Overall, "Silent House" did not have me at the edge of my seat. A lot of the scenes that were clearly geared at getting a viewer response were so cliche, what with the sinister music and background noises become louder... and louder. There was one scene, near the end of the film, that made me cringe only because I knew what was coming. It involved the use of a polaroid camera in the pitch black attic (add a few creepy ghosts and you get the picture).
I can't say that the story wraps up nicely in the end. All it did for me was heighten my awareness of the lack of plot and character development throughout the film. The beginning of the film is the only time that we get a hint to the ending of the film. What I mentioned in the very beginning of this review is pretty much the backstory leading to the end. Everything in between is just fluff to keep us watching for the full 85 minutes.