By Kien Ha
“Silent House” is an American psychological thriller and remake of the Uruguayan original film of the same name, “La Casa Muda.” Both films were shot to appear as one continuous take, and follows main character Sarah as she faces the horror that unfolds within her family vacation home.
The film opens with Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), hanging out by a lake alone. She returns to a house nearby as her father, John (Adam Trese), pulls up in the driveway. They move construction tools from John’s car into the house and are met by Sarah’s uncle, Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens), who leads them to his discovery of a hole in a kitchen wall. John inspects the hole and announces that mold was quickly spreading within the walls.
An argument ensues between John and Peter, and Peter leaves the house. Sarah then greets a knocking and finds a girl at the door. The girl tells Sarah they used to hang out together, but Sarah appears to have little to no memory of her. Sarah tells the girl that she and her dad were fixing up the old vacation home and sell it. Due to the constant vandalism during their absence, the house was in terrible condition inside and out, which explains the lack of electricity and some parts of the walls being boarded up. After promising to catch up with the girl later, Sarah goes back inside and began to hear strange noises upstairs. She tells her dad, who sets out to investigate before he disappears.
Although not the only one of its kind, the camera work in “Silent House” successfully weaves suspense with an intense uneasiness in isolation. Throughout the film, the camera that follows Sarah allows the audience to feel as if they are right there with her. Every movement in the corner, lurking shadow and sudden noise are not only seen and heard, but also felt as Sarah fights through the danger. Even during moments when Sarah is seemingly safe, the nagging feeling of dread is never far behind.
An interesting quality of the movie includes the use of lighting. Although taken place in a late afternoon when the sun is still out, the board-up and lack of electricity of the house traps Sarah in near darkness. She is often forced to investigate her surroundings with the use of lamps and flash lights. The thin walls that separate her isolation and the bright world outside make an interesting observation.
Those familiar with Olsen’s acting can easily conclude that the film did not explore her full potential. Nevertheless, she succeeds in her transformation from a frightened and frantic young woman, to a deranged and delusional psychological victim when the movie reveals its plot twist. The roles of John and Peter, however, could have used much improvement. Once the silly family banter scenes were over, they became irrelevant once appeared onscreen with Olsen. Neither actor was convincing in their positions during the climax of the movie and, despite their large roles, became decreasingly interesting to watch.
For fans of the horror genre, remakes of foreign films are often hit or miss. However, “Silent House” is worth giving this American remake a chance.