By Monique Hall

Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s Silent House is the latest in novelty horrors, priding itself on ‘real-time’ style footage and the illusion of a constant camera shot. Hardly completely undiscovered territory, but Silent House has the added bonus of Elizabeth Olsen, who has clearly contributed to the weight and buzz surrounding this foreign film remake. 

Taking centre stage in Silent House, Olsen shines with her depiction of a petrified and trapped young woman. The seemingly continuous camera shot makes the film a very unforgiving suspense-fest and acts as a ‘real-time’ marker throughout the film. It’s not an over the top movie, something which is quite refreshing considering some of the abysmal horror movies that have come out recently, but it is damn creepy.  

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), her dad (Adam Trese) and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are renovating the old family house. With boarded up windows, locked doors, absolutely no light and, wait for it – no cell phone coverage – it’s a dream as far as horror houses go. 

Sure enough the house attracts trouble in the form of ‘intruders’ and Sarah soon finds herself on her own with her dad clobbered on the head. A terrorised Sarah then has to navigate her way around the maze-like house, which seems to have endless corridors, with nothing but a torch to try and find her way. 

Olsen’s performance as Sarah is brilliant, as she fights between fear and composure in the quest to get help and safety. Characters to be blamed for the nightmare unfolding and to scare the audience begin to be thrown in erratically, and it becomes impossible to figure out the true source of horror. 

A succession of out of focus shots of lumbering intruders, hands grabbing out of nowhere, bizarre montages of blood pouring out the house, and a peculiar and unexplained blue coloured man help to form the collection of supposed dangerous entities roaming around the house, and the apparent perpetrators of the violence towards Sarah’s family. 

After both her father and uncle are captured by the intruders, Sarah seemingly comes face to face with those responsible., but there are plenty more twists to come. It’s a hard hitting ending and one that can be construed as either intelligent and high-concept or just not quite right. 

Ultimately the ending leaves the first part of the movie almost lost; it’s like the film was propelled by all this fear and suspense and intensity – as if building up to something – and then suddenly loses momentum due to such an uncomfortable and sinister resolution. Whether or not the ending rewards the viewer is uncertain.  

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Either way, there’s no denying the film is a hell of a ride; the continuous camera shot hovers along seamlessly with Olsen’s every move, which enables the viewer to feel just as confused as she is.. The camera’s ‘first person’ account also tests the age-old horror film question of ‘What would I do in that situation?’, as you are haphazardly dragged along with every good or bad move Olsen makes.
 
Those whose first film love isn’t horror may well put Silent House in the clever movie pile, in that if offers a different and refreshing take on the scary film genre – you almost expect a cliché ending these days, so to not get one was a welcome change and as a result it does catch you off guard whether you like it or not. 

However, if you’re looking for a stereotypical American blood-fest or the all familiar haunted house tale then this film is not for you. Give it a watch to catch up on your Elizabeth Olsen back catalogue and see some interesting camerawork, horror fan or not.

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About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.