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Why Isn’t “Silent House” Making More Noise?

March 10, 2012

It’s official: The silent-movie comeback is over. Sure, The Artist won Best Picture at the Oscars and millions of Americans know how to pronounce Georges Méliés thanks to Hugo. But Eddie Murphy’s nearly dialogue-free turn in A Thousand Words is falling on deaf ears at the box office, and the horror film Silent House isn’t scaring up much business either. And that’s a shame. Well, not because of the Murphy movie; after the ripoff that was Tower Heist, you couldn’t pay me a thousand bucks to see him in Words. But Silent House is well worth a visit.

Brilliantly directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau—who previously reinvented the shark-attack flick with Open Water—the slightly mistitled Silent House casts the lovely and expressive Elizabeth Olsen in a role not dissimilar to her breakthrough in Martha May Marcy Marlene: a maladjusted young woman who seeks a familial connection in a remote backwoods location but instead finds herself trapped in a seemingly unending nightmare. Silent House sticks closer to horror-movie conventions—rather than a religious cult, it’s a seemingly possessed (or at least invaded) old house that’s terrorizing Olsen.

Yet Kentis and Lau upend expectations and build almost unbearable tension by shooting the film in real time—and seemingly seamlessly. The “single take” format has been done before, most notably by Alfred Hitchcock in Rope, but perhaps never as effectively as in Silent House. Yes, it’s a horror film with no discernible cuts, and that may explain why it earned a dreaded “F” from opening-night audiences via Cinemascore. The bloodthirsty gore-hounds who turn out in force for torture-porn flicks like the Saw franchise will find precious little actual violence in the film. It’s psychological horror in the best sense of the phrase.

As a result, Silent House may be one of the greatest date movies ever made. It’s the perfect film for non-stop cuddling. Since there was no letup in the tension, my entire body remained rigid throughout the film. And because the ending doesn’t provide a traditional resolution, you’re likely to leave the theater with your spine—among other body parts—still tingling, and in need of release. (Trust me on this one, guys.)

And even if you can’t find a date, there’s another way to enjoy Silent House. Olsen looks even more like her sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley, here than she did in MMMM, especially once she starts crying and her running makeup gives her raccoon eyes. And since she’s cooped up in a big house with her dorky dad and creepy uncle, you could think of it as Full House: The Horror Movie. Just add Coulier. Now that’s scary.

What have you heard about Silent House? Speak up, and post a comment!

 

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4 Comments
  1. I thought it was fantastic. I don’t agree at all on that CinemaScore F. (People are mostly stupid; that’s what that score is about. Sad but true.) Olsen is a real talent. The filmmakers here are craftsmen; the movie was so well executed. I was on to it about mid-way–I’m good that way, I tend to understand where a story is going, i’s a sixth sense of mine. Even still, it was absurdly creepy and freaky.

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