Silent House Review

The words “based on real events” can often add gravitas to an otherwise lacklustre film. Fortunate then that Silent House, which is based-on-a-Uruguayan-film-based-on-real-events, stands up relatively well without relying on its true story credentials.

The film opens at an isolated lakeside house, where we are introduced to a young woman called Sarah, her father, her uncle Peter and an enigmatic girl called Sophie. The former three are renovating the house, a place which would probably look just as creepy even if all the windows weren’t inexplicably boarded up.

No sooner are we afforded a brief introduction to the characters’ interrelationships that Sarah finds herself trapped inside the dark house and generally jumpier than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. And that’s only the beginning.

As the story unfolds, Silent House can be interpreted either as the metaphorical journey of a young woman into the dark depths of her own memory, or as a straight forward spooky-house thriller for the Paranormal Activities set.

On this basis, it ranks up there with recent decent fare such as The Others and The Strangers.

Directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau are no strangers to generating intense fear within limited spatiality, as their excellent collaboration on Open Water will attest. And Silent House continues this trend.

Predictably enough this directorial duo unashamedly tread familiar horror territory. There’s much unfeasible key-fumbling and unnecessary basement-investigating, while Elizabeth Olsen’s character of Sarah seems to have ordered her low cut white top and short skirt straight from the Scream Queen 2011 winter collection.

Unsurprisingly, Olsen has little to do for the majority of proceedings other than run around in panic from room to room, all wide eyed and teary, though earlier scenes with the other characters effectively inject some reality to proceedings.

Silent House is redeemed by a level of subtlety which surpasses the majority of its contemporaries though. The camera lingers teasingly behind door-cracks and leaves the majority of terror to the viewer’s imagination. One scene involving illumination by camera flash is admittedly derivative, yet expertly executed.

Furthermore, the eventual explanation for Sarah’s unease engenders a sense of horror in the viewer way beyond your standard Scooby-doo denouement.

The film’s major selling point, and indeed the subject of many an internet chat room debate, is that Kentis and Lau supposedly shot Silent House in a single eighty-five minute take. Several sources have since denied this, advising that the film was merely edited that way, but who really cares?

Silent House still feels like it was shot in one take, which adds to Sarah’s sense of claustrophobia inside the house. If there’s no escape for her then there’s no escape for the viewer either.

All in all, a welcome addition to the genre which pushes buttons if not the staid horror genre’s boundaries.

Conor Brennan

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