This horror flick with Elizabeth Olsen - filmed in one long shot - comes dangerously close to working...
Universal / 86 Minutes / 2011 / Rated R / Street Date: July 24, 2012
It feels like an irresistible conceit - horror movies have turned to 'found footage' narrative syntax successfully over the last decade or so (Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity), so why not try something similarly shtick-y? Silent House's big draw is that it's constructed to look like it is one continuous 80-minute shot. As poor Elizabeth Olsen gets thrown through the horror ringer, we watch it all happen as it's unfolding, without the safety net of a reverse shot to offer us momentary solace.
This isn't brand new cinema - Hitchcock, of course, tried it with Rope, and the beautiful (if perhaps dull) Russian Ark also gave it a shot a decade ago - but Silent House's first ten minutes really set up a coolness that really clicks. During its lilting opening sequences, Silent House gives the feeling that it just might work. And then it completely falls apart.
The film follows Sarah (Olsen) as she returns with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) to their old family lake house with a motive to clean the old girl up and put her up for sale. But in few short moments, her dad goes into town for groceries, her uncle disappears upstairs, and some sort of killer or ghost or alien or something starts making Sarah's life miserable. Almost never leaving her side, we're allowed a front-row-seat view of a woman driven insane by perhaps preternatural elements.
Olsen's performance is appropriately off-the-rails, and the mood of Silent House feels right, but the movie is just too dumb for its own good. If you can keep yourself from asking any questions - large or small - about the film's needlessly complicated plot, you'll probably be able to make it through the thing without groaning, but Silent House seems to go out of its way to drown you in expositional blandness. It makes for a fun visual experiment, but a shitty horror movie is a shitty horror movie, and even with its audacious style, Silent House can't break free of that.