After the greatness of The Artistand the intrigue of Hammer’s The Woman in Black, Dr. Film Critic sits down to the newest release by Open Road Films, Silent House, a feature whose main gimmick is that it was shot in one take.
At a quiet lakeside home, a young woman by the name of Sarah (Elizabeth Olson) is in the final stages of cleaning out the damaged property with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens). Yet for them, the final stages may prove to be far more critical than previously thought. While completing some last minute repairs, Sarah hears a series of unusual noises throughout the house. Soon she discovers that an unidentified intruder is apparent within the property and all exits are locked. After finding her father badly hurt, with no phone and no one nearby, she must wage a one woman fight for survival.
Developed from a 2010 low budget Spanish horror feature, and staring the younger sister of teen idols, Mary Kate and Ashley Olson, Silent House arrives on movie screens in the midst of an active March release season surrounded by high budgeted vehicles such as Disney’s John Carter and Universal’s The Lorax. Yet despite an interesting premise, and the casting of Olson, who gained critical praise for her debut in the independent thriller, Martha Marcy May Marlene , this film suffers under the weight of internal faults that ultimately doom this feature from the start.
In the acting field, the cast is mixed throughout, with the performers failing to contribute much to their performances or the film as a whole. As Sarah, Elizabeth Olson is uninterested in the role, as her character largely wanders throughout, alternating between very direct monotone line readings and frequent often annoying bouts of screaming. Supporting Olson, Adam Trese and Eric Staffer Stevens are weak in their roles as Sarah’s father and uncle, both suffering from the same critical faults as Olson, in terms of monotone unemotional dialogue readings and a lack of interest in how their characters behave in comparison to the events around them.
Production-wise, directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau are satisfactory in their direction, conveying both the onscreen action, while at the same time providing some decent scares throughout. For the most part, their camerawork is direct with a first person tone, yet on other occasions it often can become frustrating to view what is occurring due to the frequent shifts when Olson’s character runs in a panic through the entire house. In regards to the feature’s gimmick of being shot in one continuous take, while this concept does work at times, the idea of an entire film shot under such circumstances becomes tiresome as characters wander aimlessly without any sense of emotion or suspense, to the point of padding. Sadly underneath the film’s many faults in terms of acting, storyline and production, lies a larger fault in terms of writing. The screenplay by Kentis and Lau, while it lacks much in terms of characterization, and a general sense of suspense, suffers during the final twenty minutes. During this period, the script and corresponding visual action becomes increasingly convoluted, leading to an ending that not only fails to satisfy audience expectations, but also reduces previously seen events into nothing more than speculation by the lead character.
Overall, Silent House is a poor horror film that fails to take an interesting concept and develop it into any kind of memorable or enjoyable experience for audiences seeking a weekend escape. Despite several decently suspenseful moments, and a straightforward sense of directing, this feature ultimately lacks a hold on potential viewers, and sadly proves to be the first misstep of the 2012 film season.
Final Rating: 4/10.