Review- Silent House

Elizabeth Olsen in Silent House (Lidell Media)

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.

5/10

61 Days of Halloween- Genesis

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Genesis

Genesis (Waken Productions)

If the aforementioned Aftermath is not your cup of tea you needn’t worry because you can still stream the prodigious talent of Nacho Cerda by watching Genesis. Immediately you are shown a list of awards this film has one so you are clued in that this is a different sort of ride.

While managing to be agonizingly beautiful this film will forever redefine the lyric by Elton John “If I was a sculptor…but then again, no” as a weird symbiosis between sculptor and statue is formed.

This is a film that redefines the living statue but also excels in filmmaking prowess. The original score and cinematography work in perfect harmony to heighten the drama of the tale. Here again the effects are great as we see a metamorphosis slowly building.

Through creatively lit and cut together dream sequences the subject of the statue is given meaning as this tale isn’t whimsical as many which feature the motif and adds additional information to the transformation scenes. These scenes end with a wonderful POV shot.

Again Cerda puts his protagonist alone and in solitary work so he need not speak. Here again Cerda creates sort of a gruesome fascination in what is going on in the film, in this film especially I was reminded of my first viewing of Hellraiser. Yes, I did just liken Cerda to Clive Barker that is the height of effectiveness that these short films reach.

While there may be a shot or two extra at the end that could’ve been judiciously trimmed or lost this is still a brilliant piece of work and one that can be appreciated by a much wider audience than Aftermath.

9/10