“Silent House” Makes Audiences Scream

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FLIP THIS HOUSE: Eric Sheffer Stevens, Elizabeth Olsen and Adam Trese in Silent House.

Eric Bourse, El Vaquero Staff Writer

Audiences loudly demanding another horror film in 2012 no longer need to wait. “Silent House” has arrived.

“Silent House” is directed by husband and wife-duo Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (“Open Water,” 2003). The screenplay was written by Lau and based on the Uruguayan film of the same name, directed and written by Gustavo Hernández.

The film stars the up and coming Elizabeth Olsen (“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” 2011) as Sarah, a young woman who has returned to her childhood home to help her father, John (played by Adam Trese,) and uncle, Peter (played by Eric Sheffer Stevens), clean out the place and sell it.

Frustrated with his daughter slacking on her chores, John commands Sarah to stay in her room to start packing and to throw unwanted belongings in the trash. Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t even get to fold a shirt before things go bump in the night — literally — and she must begin her hour-and-a half-long fight for survival from an unseen intruder.

In an era in which many horror films are using the “found footage” gimmick, “Silent House” utilizes one that is rarely seen, except on the TV program, “24.” The plot unfolds in real time and entirely in one continuous take. Alfred Hitchcock explored this trick back in 1948 with his classic film “Rope.”

The horror in the film does have some truly scary moments and fortunately doesn’t rely on a constant stream of jump scares, but instead dishes up suspense and thrilling chase scenes. The biggest surprise in “Silent House” isn’t necessarily the movie’s twist, but the fact that it almost seems like two films in one.

In the film’s first act, the horror is similar to that of such recent films as “The Strangers” (2008), with a constant and unrelenting pursuer. When the plot turns, the horror surprisingly becomes surreal as the film shifts into a psychological thriller much like Roman Polanski’s timeless 1965 film, “Repulsion.”

These nightmarish sequences shine with the film’s continuous single take and the special effects are used responsibly, despite Sarah’s reality being shaken.

The acting in “Silent House” is one of the film’s biggest missteps. Olsen does an admirable job, considering the camera is almost entirely focused on her face, allowing audiences to follow her every expression of terror.

However, Trese’s and Stevens’ acting isn’t on Olsen’s level and is distracting in certain moments in the film. Their line deliveries sounds campy most of the time and “Silent House” could have benefited if they made their performances more subtle and natural.

Another major blunder is Kentis and Lau’s delivery on the film’s twist. Some of their choices for clues that are sprinkled throughout the film aren’t subtle and take away from the emotional impact that the twist could have had on audiences.

Overall, the film delivers a shocking variety of scares and its presentation in real-time sets itself apart from many horror movies. However, due to Olsen’s surrounding cast and not-so-subtle clues, “Silent House” won’t be anything more than a muffled bump in the night in movie horror history.

The movie is rated R for disturbing content and terror and runs for 88 minutes.

3 out of 5 stars.

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