With Silent House you have yet another horror film that is a remake of a recent release overseas. What is undeniable is that the concept of a single take style horror film is intriguing, however, the execution of the style and its application to this particular story leaves a lot to be desired. You have on the one hand a lot of technical merit and on the other hand not a lot of narrative merit at all.
Any time you’re taking a notion that Hitchcock experimented with, one he did brilliant things with, you have promise but that promise is never close to fulfilled here. The ruination of this film is not all at once, which makes it all the more frustrating, however, the seeds are sewn early.
One thing that doesn’t quite jive with the production concept is that at some point, after great pains have been taken to establish the reality and immediacy of the situation, the score comes in. Which just alerts you to the artificiality of the situation, which seems to be what they’re trying to avoid so it’s a confusing and unfortunate decision.
In a film where there will be jump scares induced mainly by audio cues, and visuals are to an extent sacrificed, a lot of the film depends on its performers. So far as the lead is concerned Elizabeth Olsen, who broke out last year with her acclaimed performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene, is a very capable indeed. She accomplishes the rare feat of actually being as quiet as possible but also convincingly scared. It’s not a scream queen performance, it’s the antithesis of that and she does very well with it. None of the film’s failure can be placed on her.
The rest of the cast is another story and part of it has to do with the quality of the performance but also, and equally important, is the fact that many of the supporting players contribute massively to the film’s unfortunate transparency. The film is trying to hide secrets and give you twists, it means well but fails to really surprise.
Based both on the dialogue and the interpretation of Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens and Julia Taylor Ross the actors may as well be saying “Subtext” as well as have it stamped on their forehead. Everything’s played such that you start speculating, a bit uncertainly about the nature of all these people and later are proven correct and you really didn’t want to be. Similarly, it makes the single take a bit more confounding since the ideal visual style would maybe not have been seemingly objective but rather definitively subjective, an all POV tale but regardless of that, which doesn’t really affect my view of this film, the path they chose was marred with mistakes.
Horror films, perhaps more so than any other genre, have become very concerned (perhaps overly so) with twists and keeping the audience guessing. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does complicate the equation quite a bit and gets more than its fair share of films in trouble than it ought to.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to pull a fast one on the audience, but to do so your slight of hand has to be impeccable and here not only was the reveal unsatisfactory, so was the set up. I could see it coming a mile away and I was hoping I was wrong, then I wasn’t and it turned what could’ve been a decent, stripped-down horror story into something of a quasi-farcical failure.