Night #11: Silent House (2011)

Directed By: Chris Kentis & Laura Lau

(Female Scream)

As a technical achievement Silent House is outstanding. It’s basically a home invasion movie that takes place in real time, all in one shot (In reality it’s broken up to about 14 shots, but it’s hidden very well) and with a great central performance by Elizabeth Olsen. As a movie I was less enamoured with it, not least of all for some choices it makes in the last act.

A remake of a Uruguayan film, Silent House tells the story of Olsen who’s helping her Father and Uncle pack up their Lakeside home. After a strange encounter with a neighbour things start to go bad, and Olsen is pursued by one (or more) attackers. As a straight home invasion movie it works just fine, with the unbroken takes adding some urgency to the proceedings. Most of the scares are of the ‘There’s something in the background’ variety, with a lot of it playing off Olsen’s terrified reactions. It’s also fairly relentless, with the action kicking off about fifteen minutes into the movie and then not letting up until the end. It’s one extended chase scene, and having the camera so close to Olsen the whole time keeps things intense enough that even some standard scare scenes are elevated.

But there’s that ending. This will be a short review because I can’t really discuss it but I felt it was a cheat, despite the groundwork that it lays. There are hints throughout, both subtle and unsubtle, about what’s going on yet it still feels like a cheat. In a strange way it both makes perfect sense and yet no sense at all. In that way, the idea of making it the way they have, while technically impressive, cheapens the ending because it’s impossible. You could explain it in a “Well you think this is happening but really it’s this” sort of argument, but no audience wants to feel like they’ve lied to, which is what I feel like happened here. The two aren’t similar but the film I thought of the most was High Tension. That’s a film that works incredibly well until a dumb twist invalidates most of what you’ve seen and it really lessens the excellent work that’s come beforehand.

It’s even more infuriating because the twist sort of makes sense, and there are moments in the film that work both on a visual/symbolic level. The problem is that it works against the type of film that they’ve made. It pretends to be something until it decides that it isn’t.

You can read up on the ending if you wish, it’s freely available online, but I recommend you watch it and make up your own mind. Plus you’ll get to view Olsen’s great performance (You’d never think her sisters were Mary-Kate and Ashley).

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