Out today on Blu-ray and DVD a film that, maybe just for its gimmick, had many curious. The remake of 2010 Uruguayan film of the same name (minus the ‘The’), Silent House also managed to gain exposure by grabbing onto the rising star status of its female lead.
Along with her father and uncle, Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) is at their family lakeside holiday home to help renovate it before it goes on the market. But as night closes in and her uncle leaves to get some supplies, Sarah and her father John (Adam Trese) are attacked by strange figures in the house. Unknown of whom or why they are being hunted, Sarah soon finds herself all alone as she fights to survive and escape the confines of the house.
Marketed as the ‘real time, all in one shot, horror film that will shred your nerves’ Silent House never reaches the promise of its stylist premise. At its very best it’s a fantastic technical exercise, but at its very worse it’s a dull and a rather poorly executed horror flick. There are a few fleeting moments where it fluctuates at either end but for the most part it unfortunately just sits in between, becoming quietly average and not at all memorable.
The ‘one shot’ technique, with 99% of it focusing on Olsen’s character, does lead to some nice moments of ambiguity. The fact that we don’t see this unknown threat terrorising them for a large part of the movie is menacing and disorienting. But with a film that doesn’t always keep your attention you more than once find yourself trying to find the cracks in the cement of its single shot claim, spotting the obvious times where they would have cut and then stitched it back up in post. And then you have the ending which, other than being inconceivable on a pure narrative level is, for the audience, an intelligence insulting way to end this so called ‘rollercoaster of a film’.
The disc itself isn’t fantastic either; the 1080p transfer – when the camera is still – is fine. I would even go as far to say that it’s quiet good. But as soon as it moves at any pace or doesn’t have artificial light in the frame, it gets incredibly image noisy. After the fact, I found out that this was shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mk II, now this is a decent enough middle range DSLR camera and I understand the attraction of having the versatility of a camera of this size for this ‘one shot’ style, but it’s got limitations and these are unfortunately evident in the transfer of the film.
When thinking about the sound, you actually start to think about technicality of it and the fact that the sound crew would have had to manoeuvre around the house with Olsen for long periods of time and not only stay out of frame but make sure they got the sound they need. That task in itself needs respect and, for me, they do a good job. Sound is clear and crisp and, although it’s not brilliant, does its job to create an atmosphere.
The extras on the other hand are a let-down. You do get a director’s commentary with co-directors Chris Kentis and Laura Laum, who talk about the complicated technical side of the shoot that came from attempting to film a story seemingly in one shot. You’ve then got a short film winner from the website shooting people and trailer. Its bare bones stuff really, however, I don’t blame StudioCanal for just wanting to get this out there with the littlest effort possible.
Overall, Silent House really isn’t worth your time. Apart from its ‘all in a single shot’ gimmick and Olsen’s performance, which is way better than the film deserves, it doesn’t deliver anything you would want a quality horror film to deliver. A potentially great idea wasted.
**Silent House is released on Blu-ray and DVD from 17 September, 2012 courtesy of StudioCanal**