At some point while watching Silent House¸ you will need to think about breathing because it is certainly easy to forget. Maintaining a consistently high level of tension and unpredictability while more than just teasing audiences—those bumps and creaks are not shoddy workmanship—the ambitious Silent House is 85 minutes of real time, continuous terror.
As night begins to fall on a lakeside home, young Sarah finds herself with her father and uncle in a messy and large home that is in the process of being repaired and renovated. Doors and windows are boarded up the vast place, and the main door requires a key that will not only lock people out, but in as well.
When Olsen hears a noise upstairs (squatters? vandals?), her father checks it out to find nothing. When alarm passes as false, the two split up to take on the continued task of cleaning, but only briefly as a sudden sound erupts and her father disappears.
And the game begins, with someone or something is terrorizing Sarah, and a tension-filled movie terrorizes the audience.
Taking on a role with such great demand, Elizabeth Olsen is tremendous and the main reason the movie is a success. She is a better actor than her two male counterparts, and demonstrates her wide range of emotion and capability as if she were a stage performer, hitting her mark, and putting herself in the moment as it happens. It doesn’t hurt that she possesses the charm and beauty required of someone of whom the camera is constantly trained.
Though at first admittedly blurry, shaky, and disorienting, the camera seems to settle once inside the house, allowing the palpable tension to seep from the screen. The jitteriness returns whenever the action is outside, but rest assured this is only brief. The fact that the movie is in real time makes it all the more engrossing, a credit to Olsen as well as the two directors Laura Lau and Chris Kentis, returning years after his success with another realistic and intimate horror in the similarly ambitious Open Water.
Because the movie is continuous, until the credits roll, you know there is no escape. For however long Olsen hides away or finds safety, you know it won’t be that long. Occasionally the music will tell too much, teasing a shock, but silence often pervades.
Silent House is fascinating for its novelty, but is validated by the performance of Olsen and the genuine horror it elicits. What’s more, the story at the heart is compelling and not hastily conceived for the sake of shock.
Worthy for its well-executed clever technique, scares, and ending, Silent House is a riveting horror, interesting drama, and wonderful piece of film making.