“Silent House”
“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).
Yes, 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