From the directors of Open Water, Silent House suffers the same fate as that aquatic thriller: holds steady for well over an hour before it loses the run of itself. What we have up until then, though, is a tight minimal horror that just might give you the heebie-jeebies.
Sarah (Olsen), her dad, John (Trese), and her uncle, Peter (Stevens), pack up the belongings in the family's lakeside retreat and board up the house. When Peter drives into town on an errand, Sarah asks dad to go upstairs to check out a suspicious noise. A sickly thud later, and dad doesn't come back down. Then there's footsteps and a dragging sound. Eek. Reckoning that there's someone else in the house, Sarah searches for a way out – but there's no key to the front door and the windows are boarded shut and she has nothing to defend herself and it's just an unpleasant situation to find oneself in...
A remake of the Argentinean La Casa Muda, which in turn was supposedly based on a true story, Silent House is not a Found Footage film but it has all the earmarks of them. Taking place in out in real time, Kentis and Lau have the camera shoved into Olsen's face throughout the eighty-five minutes, which play out like one continuous take a la Russian Ark. This tactic works for and against the movie. On the plus side it's a real immersive experience - we're with Sarah all the way, see what she sees, fear what she fears, etc, it cuts out the jump cut/loud bang horror cliché and the continuous take gives the film a rising dread. However, on the downside, we're always aware we're watching a film and Kentis and Lau seem to have to problem with that – sometimes it's all about the clever directors. Trese and Stevens look like a wet week older than Olsen too.
Olsen is fantastic, delivering another great performance after Martha Marcy May Marlene. She steers clear of the scream queen: what she's after here is depicting a woman who is trying to keep it together but knows that she is losing it one second at a time. What's refreshing is that there are no heroics from her Sarah – she's a normal girl who just wants out.
Then is goes the shape of the proverbial pear - with about fifteen minutes to go, the plot takes a route that's inadvisable. Kentis and Lau had to do something, bring in another element, or the film would be one not but it's the wrong choice.