“Silent House” is of interest
because of style points. The whole 85 minutes was done in one
“take.” No cuts, no editing, no “tightening” of the
scenes, no excess footage on the cutting-room floor.
It is commendable in itself that a
perceptible story line could be achieved in this way, and kudos to Directors
Chris Kentis and Laura Lau for willing to take a chance professionally. However,
it’s kind of like fighting with one hand tied behind your back. You’re
limiting yourself unnecessarily, and your likelihood of success is
precipitously reduced. Ironically “Safe House” suffers from
precisely the lack of editing and “fixing” that a good Director does in
post-production. There are scenes that are way too long, and plot
turns that are way too abrupt, and viewers could have greatly benefitted with
some “backstory” that would endear them to the characters. But
that’s not how this one was done. So, rather than speak
exclusively of how it could be done better, we’ll try to deal with it, also,
on its own terms.
Elizabeth Olsen, as Sara, represents an
excellent casting decision. She’s young and frail-looking
enough (an Olsen family characteristic) to appear vulnerable, and yet, when
she occasionally decides to be strong, that’s convincing, also. At
first, things seem benign enough: she’s in their former house
with her father, trying to clean it up so they can sell it. Her
uncle comes by and offers to help, but he and her father have words which
indicate a continually strained relationship. She receives a
visitor, a neighbor girl who seems to remember her vividly, but Sara’s not
so sure what she remembers. (Hint: that’s a clue, folks.)
The house, of course, is dark, because
the electricity’s out, so it’s necessary to have a lamp of some kind,
which helps with the eerie shadows. And the creepiness really
starts when Sara begins to hear noises coming from a part of the house where
she knows her father isn’t working.
Though “Silent House” doesn’t
indulge in that many jump-out-and-scare-you-with-loud-noises tricks, nor does
it indulge in much of the typical R-rated nudity, sex, language, or “adult
situations,” nevertheless, they do indulge in some viewer deception (but
even saying that much gives away an expectation). When the lamp
goes out, there’s a convenient Polaroid to add occasional flashes that
illuminate the dark screen. And the male characters seem to be
furtively pocketing random discarded Polaroids (Hint: there’s
another clue, folks).
it’s made to look homemade, and in that, at least, they were successful.
But although it may receive careful attention in film schools,
“Silent House” won’t be considered a classic of the horror genre by any
other critical criterion.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church, Irving , Texas