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'Silent house' is an American horror film released in May 2012, by independent film company Open Road. The film has a guidance rating of 15 because of some of its frightening/disturbing scenes, runs for an hour and 25 minutes and is rated 5.1 out of 10 on IMDB.
Plenty of new horror films have been based on 'true' events this year, including the poltergeists in house stories and 'found footage' type of idea and 'Silent House' is one of them. I don't know how believable you could really say they are, but one thing that might be true is it seems any film revolving around a haunted house could make viewers consider the possibility of the occurrence because you might maybe me more able to relate to them, especially when presented in a gritty kind of way, emphasising some authenticity. Some might need a lot of convincing but either way what you see in the film is pretty engaging with a few scary bits here and there, and after all of that, it is a story that is so messed up psychologically that it's maybe very possible in reality, making the story of this particular film, a good one.
The story revolves around a girl called Sarah, played by Elizabeth Olsen, who while clearing up her family's vacation home for it to go on sale with her father and her uncle, she hears a sudden bump and more strange sounds around the house and soon starts to believe she is seeing people. And things start to go from bad to worse when she finds she can't get out of the house to escape the horror of things within it stalking and practically haunting her. But as more and more strange things start to happen, we start to learn that there is something more to all of this than just what is evident.
The beginning: The film opens with a daytime scene, possibly late afternoon, so that we know it is soon to be night for the rest of the events to unfold more fittingly in the dark. This first opening scenes involves the lead character approaching the holiday lake house in which all the events will later take place and its almost right away at this point that we get an idea of the isolated and very secluded setting and the location of the house which immediately becomes the key feature of the film - we know now that this is what is supposed to be the silent house. We are then introduced to her family from these early scenes (her dad and uncle) and it is essentially these three characters in which the entire film develops upon which just goes to show the simplicity of it. Overall a good beginning to the film that gets started quicker than expected, but I feel that's a good thing...
The characters: ...However since the film does jumps quickly into the main bulk of the plot, it almost seems to leave out any character development altogether, and we hardly build up a connection with any of the three characters or learn anything about their backgrounds which might have been nice to know a little about. Despite that though, it still doesn't take away that their performances are done well, and there was is hardly point during any of their acting that you might feel a little bit doubtful about their actions or emotions conveyed: so on the whole, the performances are basically good enough to keep the film entertaining enough to carry on watching. In terms of the actual purpose of the two secondary characters - dad and uncle - that's a different thing altogether, as it seems they were mostly just there somewhere in the background, and although, like I mentioned earlier, there is nothing disastrous about their performance in the film, they are still very forgettable. Since the story moves along with the experiences of the girl Sarah trapped in the house, the entire film is able to capture her emotions, views, encounters, since the story is seen solely from her point of view even if our relationship with the lead character was not strong at all. Even so, Olson's performance as Sarah was pretty decent, and as the viewer begins to experience what she is experiencing, we do get a sense of it being terrifying as we begin to feel her agony and pain, almost as if you could imagine being in her position in that house, at that particular time. Overall not the best character development, but great acting from all.
The horror: The scares in the film are based on a combination of both mystery horror and psychological horror of the effects and the horror of being enclosed by eeriness trying to 'get you' along with the attempts at escaping it - all the unexplained things and 'people' that we never really get to see, successfully give off a creepy tone and atmosphere, especially since the events are all taking place in pure darkness, making it feel more daunting. Although we never really get a true idea of what is even happening, this I think may have just helped mess with our minds and build up a lot more fear than any type of slasher-horror or a typical spooky house story might be able to. The fear that this story creates is different to the usual in many ways - normally the audience can be won over by shock and visually disturbing scenes, but 'Silent House' very little jumpy scares or frights, or visually startling experiences that are purposefully sudden with the intent to make you jump regardless of whether it fits in with the story or not. Instead it builds up an atmosphere of terror based mostly on its simplicity of its events and so can easily rely mostly on brilliant suspense - and I think this is what makes the film more special.
Theme: Some elements that really stand out and help give off the right type of vibe we'd want for an intense and creepy viewing experience are things like the technique in which the entire film is shot in one piece, which works well for horror films, and also the fact that it mostly takes place in the night which is great helping give off the feeling that what is happening is happening 'now' whilst watching it. Elements that help make up the film, content-wise, and are part of the plot are things like the stalking, possible hallucinations, the sinister-vibe and the mystery surrounding the 'people' or monsters in the house that we see shadows of, the power cuts, use of guns, some blood and violence, a creepy basement, endless hallways and wall-papered rooms, which all visually help work with the plot. Other things such as the emptiness of the house or the loneliness of the setting, just have the effect of setting the scene for unusual events to take place and in some ways help give off a claustrophobic feeling like unwanted isolation. This, along with the helplessness, vulnerability, paranoia and going insane over certain things, really help get you into the position of the lead character. However regardless of all that which all will generally work in favour of the film, it has to be said that when you think about it there is hardly much in it to have you hooked completely and basically if you are the type of person that is very likely to switch off mentally as soon as a film looses its way, be prepared for this film not to float your boat, and switch the film off half way.
Special effects: With the lack of jump-out-of-your-seat scary action and the method of producing a level of reality in filming that one long continuous shot in a day meant special effects were subtle to probably convey the 'reality'. But even if over-the-top CGI is where horror is the best, the visual type of effects we get here instead, takes advantage of the simplicity of its scenes, and with its 'found video footage' kind of idea, this has the ability of making you feel as though you yourself are walking around this house, and allows us to maybe imagine that this could be the closest thing to our own experience of being trapped in a house if maybe... 'strangers' got in...Other effects such as doors that suddenly slam shut, mysterious shadows, strange knocks and bumps and threatening footsteps that gradually get louder giving the effect of being stalked, the effect of blood are some of effects this film is based on, and there is some visual appeal to it all and you might start to notice that its this that you really begin to enjoy most about the film, more than anything else.
Audio: Like you would expect, the film contains subtle musical or dramatic background noises as it tries to create a series of true to reality experiences - this is mostly without much additional background sounds that you would normally expect from horror films like tense screeching chords, symbols and instead being replaced by clear sounds like footsteps and movement around the house, the tense sound of silence, breathing and some bursts of noise when necessary and the music tones that we can sometimes hear in the background are very light that you would not normally notice it. All of this still has just as much of an effect of creating a chilling feel to the setting as does a film filled with lots more obvious fear-proving sound effects. So on the whole, the style and use of audio really suits the overall atmosphere of the film.
The ending: Once we reach the ending all the answers that we needed to know are revealed, which then allows everything to properly fall into place and this should really make it a satisfying ending to the film, but really it is not. I wouldn't say it was the most terrible ending but the fact that it hardly had a gripping and interesting conclusion, which it not even properly delivered and just seemed to have been brought in to finish of the story very casually and tediously, makes it a disappointing ending to the film overall. I might have expected a twist to end the film, but it became very easy to predict the final events as you were halfway towards the closing of the film.
Even if this film is not the most exciting horror film out this year, I still think it's probably a welcome film release for horror movie fans, as there are just never enough films of the genre out each year. Even if at times it does tend to go downhill, I didn't actually find myself trailing off completely during any part of the film - it was still interesting to know what was going to happen next in every scene and in my opinion that is definitely a good sign that the film is actually watchable.
'Silent House' is definitely one you'd either hate or just appreciate, but probably not love since there is nothing really captivating about it to be intrigued by. Bits that I did quite like, was the idea that an uncertainly of 'things' and experiences which don't make any sense were strong enough to build fear and terror, but once you make sense of it, it makes you wonder if it actually makes things better or worse. Maybe you can never really overcome fear and in Sarah's case, both are quite daunting really.
On the whole, I would not really watch the film again, but I do think the film is not that bad that you should avoid it altogether like most critics have said about it. For fans of horror and suspense, this is one that is worth watching at least once and making your own opinion on - it might not be the best film, but I have seen worse than this, and this film is pretty decent to check out.
Here is a film that is more likely to impress than scare. Depending on what you're in the mood for, "Silent House" could be the film for you. It would be best not to expect many jump scares or any blood, gore and guts. Instead be amazed at how this feature film looks as though it was filmed in one long take, without ever making a scene change. There are some black-outs sure, and the number of continuity errors is somewhat laughable, but it's the real-time, real-life experience that counts. Of course, this was not shot in one long take. But the director tries very hard to keep everything flowing. Film-buffs or any eagle-eyed members of the audience will be able to spot where the edits took place, but why try to dissect and trivialise what actually looks quite remarkable?
Like any haunted house horror, the film opens with an abandoned, worn-down house that is anything but silent. A [place you wouldn't want to live in, essentially. The walls have holes in them, windows have been bolted shut, there is very little light, the phone line is probably not even connected, there is a strange neighbour kid who seems to remember things that even the protagonist doesn't seem to, the floors creak, the doors squeak, and the list goes on and on. Unknowingly entering this house are Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) and her family who are getting ready to move out of their lakeside retreat. With her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens), they are there to pack things up, fix a few dodgy places and so on, so the new owners can move in.
As the work begins, she starts hearing odd noises. Sometimes they're nothing, but soon they develop into more menacing, demanding knocks and thumps. Upstairs, outside, downstairs in the cellar, everywhere she goes, these sounds start haunting her. Her father, like all men do in horror films, assures here that it's an empty house and that she's being paranoid. But this doesn't put her mind at east, and soon, even her father seems to vanish into thin air. Left on her own in the ill-equipped house to fend for herself against whatever creature it is that is messing with her mind, she does all the usual stunts we've seen female heroines/victims do a hundred times before.
What's disappointing is how, aside from the filming technique, everything is so ordinary and predictable. She takes out a kitchen knife. She loses it. She hides under the dining room table. She feels someone grab her leg from behind. She is found. She tries to get out of the house. Oh no, the windows have been bolted shut remember? What about the front door? Darn it, she's lost the key. The back door? Nope, it's padlocked shut. She runs upstairs. Hides again. Guess what, found again! It's a tiresome repetition that was never truly scary in the first place.
But what the seemingly one long take does add to the atmosphere is its undeniably claustrophobic set and with so many shaky close-ups of Olsen, the intensity escalates as when things get going, the audience isn't given a single second to have a breather. The air feels tight, and because the 88-minute running time is the exact same time period she experiences in the film, you know she can't do anything radical or unconvincingly heroic. She just doesn't have the time. And so the anticipation for the ending and answers to our burning questions builds up like never before and the importance of giving a reasonable answer becomes ever more crucial.
Olsen, last seen in 2011's impressive "Martha Marcy May Marlene" is in every single frame, and feels confidently grounded as she is subjected through terror after terror. She makes a more fascinating and gripping horror film female heroine than the usual, predictable teenage victims. It's difficult not to lose interest in an individual who is on screen for the entire running time, but Olsen's assured, confident self which is captured in so many invasive shots, is more than adequate at the core of the film.
The key rule of thumb in a horror film is to trust no-one. Absolutely no-one. And because the film merely has four players, it would be more than reasonable for anyone to figure out the ending. In fact, there are too many subtle hints early on, which spoil the final twist. You want to believe that what's in your head is not it. You want the script to come up with something shocking and original. Unfortunately, "Silent House" doesn't get many points on how creative or how big of a shocker the ending is. Instead what is commendable is how the final few minutes are shot. Using clever camera rotations and angles, it tries its best to explain and tie up the loose ends. But unfortunately like most horror films, not every question is answered. IT leaves holes behind for the audience to fill in, but making sense and having a satisfactory ending are two very different things. Given the sustained tension in the first half, the pay-off is rather bland, and the short length of the film comes to a surprisingly brisk finale. While it doesn't quite give off the explosive conclusion its filming technique gets everyone hyped up for, credit must be given to how low-budget, simple yet highly effective and ambitious method actually works.
After the unprecedented, enormous critical and financial success of the "Paranormal Activity" series, the phenomenon of "found-footage" horror films has, in recent years, become an almost annual tradition in which half-hearted scripts, ideas and actors make their way into shaky-cams and are presented to somehow scare someone. "Silent House" rises above the worst ones of the sub-genre, and yet it lacks the truly creepy, get-under-your-skin chilling, horror spectacle. It keeps everything close to Olsen's character, but sometimes it feels a little too restricted to allow the audience to truly absorb and feel the atmosphere. It's nice to see a different idea (although technically this is a remake of an Uruguayan film) not go to waste, and it's certainly not an awful film to list in Olsen's growing resume.
* Film only review
Silent House is a remake of Gustavo Hernández' single-take chiller La Casa Muda from 2010. Remade by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (Open Water) I found myself going to see this at the cinema recently, hoping it would be a decent creepy thriller.
The fact is was said to have been shot in one long continuous take was indeed part of the appeal for many, however, this is now doubted, as it has been said it was in fact shot in segments then cleverly edited to look as if it was filmed in one long continuous take.
The film stars Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah, a young girl who finds herself sealed inside her family's secluded lake house which they have been packing up. With no contact to the outside world, and no way out, panic turns to terror as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house. Her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are the only other people who were also at the house, but events lead to Sarah ending up alone and unable to get out.
Although the film begins in the daylight, most of the action takes place inside the house and as it is boarded up from the inside, the house is in complete darkness and lit only by some oil lamps, battery hand lamps and candles. Thus setting the scene for a creepy tale.
Although this kind of thing has been done before (Paranormal Activity) and you sort of expect some shaky filming, I actually thought at the beginning of this film that I wasn't going to be able to enjoy watching it, due to the jumpy camera and blurring out of focus filming which hurt my eyes to watch and indeed I found myself looking away.
Thankfully things got better and this didnt really happen again, but overall I can't say I really enjoyed the supposed 'one long continuous take' which makes up Silent House and found myself getting a little bored at times.
The film started off fairly promising and indeed creepy, atmospheric and tension building if not somewhat predictable as Sarah's dad goes missing after her uncle has left the house for a while and things are suddenly not what they first seemed.
The camera follows Sarah around the house as her panic increases and she finds herself alone and unable to leave, but someone or something appears to be in the house with her and she finds herself fearing for her life whilst trying to find a way to escape.
I don't think Olsen put in an entirely convincing performance. It wasn't bad, but I have certainly seen better. There was plenty of panting and screaming and therefore it's not really a 'silent house.'
What I did enjoy at first was the building tension and suspense and wondering how it would end. However, what started off as a decent creepy thriller, became confusing from about halfway through in what was quite a poorly paced middle section of the film and it took me a little while to work out what was happening. This is where it started to become too surreal and bordering on ridiculous in places, as some things didn't make sense and indeed Silent House left me with more than one unanswered question at the end. Whilst I realised it was a successful excercise in misdirection, this didn't mean it wasn't confusing.
There was a good twist which I didn't see coming, which perhaps was the saving grace here. Silent House isn't just about a person trapped inside a house trying to escape something evil. The evil is actually something I didn't expect and the film explores some sickening issues, but I felt the ending was a bit of a let down.
The acting from all three characters wasn't brilliant in my opinion and at times Olsen, was irritating. Maybe because there's very little chance for the audience to get to know any of the main characters, it means you don't exactly warm to them. I didn't find I was cheering Sarah on at any time.
There are a couple of jump scares and the creepy, atmospheric atmosphere is evident for much of the film, but the real horror is in the uncertainty of each moment, but I didn't think this was used to as good a effect as it could have been and so ultimately I didn't think it really amounted to anything. Indeed there are times, particularly in the middle of the film where there's not a lot actually happening at all and my interest began to wane here and I never really got it back.
Silent House isn't one to rave about. Worth a watch if it came on TV, but not something I would rush out and buy. Indeed there are better 'scary' thrillers around than this one.