Universal // 2011 // 86 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 24th, 2012
Inspired by true events.
Hey look! It's yet another remake of another foreign horror movie (a 2010 Uruguay film of the same name) that takes place in a creepy house inhabited by spooks and supernatural and OH MY GOD ARE YOU AS BORED AS I AM ALREADY?! Anyhow, I'm obligated to inform you that Silent House is now on Blu-ray care of Universal Home Entertainment.
Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene) takes a trip out to her family's secluded lake house do some repairs and get it ready to be put on the market. Along with her father John (Adam Trese) and Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens), Sarah plans on a weekend of smooth sailing, as they begin work on the house. Things go terribly wrong when Sarah's Uncle Peter heads into town and her father disappears while investigating some strange noises coming from upstairs. Sarah quickly realizes she's not alone in the house, finding herself in game of cat-and-mouse with someone or something that's out to harm, maim, or kill her.
Within only a few minutes of Silent House's opening, the characters are rummaging around a dark room with flashlights and gas lanterns. They look into a wall containing what appears to be mold. Or is it? Everything is lit to be creepy and eerie. In other words: Silent House goes on auto-pilot as fast as humanly possible. It's another bump-in-the-night haunted house movie that has all the excitement of enriched white bread, and almost as much nutritional value. It's a rare haunted house movie that offers up this overused plot device with any kind of originality. Silent House notes it was "inspired by true events", and by "inspired" they mean "someone heard something creepy in their attic, never checked it out, then wrote a screenplay about it."
I was bored right out of the gate. It's as if the filmmakers stood around and said, "Let's revel in cliché before the audience even has a chance to find out the main character's first name!" The movie is presented in real time -- ala 24 -- using clever editing to make it feel as if the entire story is unfolding in one long continuous shot (there aren't any scene changes), following Sarah around the house as she investigates. Essentially, this is a distant cousin to the "found footage" genre where one character hangs back to film everything that's going on. Since the movie doesn't really stray from Sarah, it's essentially the same as The Blair Witch Project, only from a different perspective.
Now, don't get me wrong; I like a gimmick as much as the next guy. In another lifetime, I was best friends with William Castle and John Waters. However, movies that unfold in "real time" rarely work (see: Nick of Time), because the medium depends on looking at things from different perspectives, both figuratively and literally. Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 thriller Rope is probably the most successful real time movie, and even that's something I'm not a fan of (I fell asleep watching it, so sue me).
Give Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of the Olsen twins) credit; she sure knows how to act convincingly terrified when the opportunity presents itself. Olsen spends the bulk of the movie hiding under tables, scampering down stairs, and generally acting scared out of her wits. It's an impressive performance, albeit one-note. When all you do is run around trying to evade death, it doesn't allow for a whole lot of character development. Olsen effectively allows tears and snot to run down her face, but I never found myself connecting with the character. There are a few others here, including Sarah's father and uncle, but they seem to come and go so quickly they could have as easily been cameo performances played by the key grip and script supervisor.
Will it surprise you when I say the finale has a twist to it? Of course not. Almost every horror movie has an end twist these days. It's been mandated by every studio head working in the industry. If the film industry were to make another Friday the 13th film, Jason would turn out to be a REAL hockey player spurned by the advances of the head counselor, and the lead female is sleeping in a cave somewhere on the grounds dreaming the whole thing while being stalked by albino cave mutants. Which reminds me: I have an awesome script to write this weekend.
Long story short, Silent House is just one long "BOO!" show, with things jumping out of corners or trying to grab the Elizabeth Olsen's leg. It takes place in the dark, where people breathe really hard right before someone -- or something -- reaches out to make them wet their pants. There's little else of value, unless you enjoy the thrill of disappointment. In that case, Silent House is a solid home run.
Presented in 1.85:1/1080p widescreen, the transfer is not great. Shot with Canon EOS 5D Mk II high definition handheld cameras, the detail is soft and often muddy. Black levels are solid but the colors (what little there are) don't have any pop. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix didn't blow me away, but does sport some well-placed ambient effects (especially during the final moments). Dialogue and music are well balanced and easily distinguished. Also included are Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 mixes, with English, Spanish and French subtitles. The are three bonus features (if you count the last two) -- a commentary by co-director Chris Kentis and screenwriter/co-director Laura Lau, a standard definition DVD version of the film, and a digital copy for your portable device.
Silent House is yet another in a long line of forgettable foreign horror remakes. I wish Hollywood would come up with something new and different. Then again, if you told me they were making another A Nightmare on Elm Street movie, I'd poop my pants, so what do I know?
Silent House isn't worth the rent. (Get it? House! Rent! Hahahaha!)
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy