While Jennifer Lawrence has been hogging the headlines as the hottest property in Hollywood, Elizabeth Olsen’s career has been bubbling beneath taking an equally upwards trajectory. Both young, both blonde and both extremely talented – they also both happen to have their own horror houses.
Silent House is Olsen’s answer to Lawrence’s House at the End of the Street, in what should have been the battle of the screaming, white-vested heroines; instead it’s all about which of these films is the most average of averages.
In fairness to Olsen, this is her debut film performance, and what better way to showcase her talents than to have her in every shot – one shot to be precise. As is the norm in Hollywood, any foreign film with an ounce of originality is swiped, so here you have a remake of La casa muda, a 2010 Uruguayan film, which had the idea of creating the film in one continuous take; ‘real fear in real-time’.
It begins with Sarah (Olsen) returning to her lakeside family holiday home with her father and uncle, hoping to restore the place after they had left it derelict and in disrepair. With the visit of an old friend, an uneasy vibe starts to take over. She becomes mysteriously trapped inside, hunted and haunted by someone that won’t leave alone until things from her past are put to rest.
With a fairly simple plot and a total of four characters in one location, the measure of the film is noticeably modest. However, within its small setting there’s a real sense of unease cooking away that wants to burst out – but only does to a certain degree. The slow pacing and creepy atmosphere in the first half descends into standard “Why are you doing that?” territory. All the answers are then flimsily revealed in the formulaic ending that leaves you feeling either outsmarted or cheated – most likely the latter.
There’s also the case of getting used to the home video quality (this is low-budget after all), and once you do, it’s technically quite sound in the way that the continuous take has been slickly edited. The groans of the house with the creaks of footsteps are effectively used, and the lighting reveals enough to create the claustrophobia. Yet, because the movie flows from chilling to boredom in equal measure, it is only Olsen’s appeal which stops the urge to switch this off.
Silent House is your typical standard genre fair with a unique feel, punctuated by a watchable leading lady and a psychological twist. Even for a Saturday night in this could be hard-going, but discovering the talent of Olsen is far more interesting then discovering the ending.