Silent House (2011) ReviewJoe Shaffer
There are a few quirks you must accept when watching a real-time film like Silent House. For starters, you must be able to palate films with slack pacing. This is even true about Silent House, as much of the film consists of its protagonist Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) searching her father's supposedly empty beach house after hearing strange noises. Although these scenes might seem like a waste of time, in actuality they work pretty well here, mostly because of the dim lighting and the atmosphere the film builds. You get a sense that there's someone waiting in the darkness, watching Sarah and her father as she ventures through a mess of boxes and drapes. Of course, this notion appears to be correct, and the grim confirmation of that is hard-hitting...
Through dim lighting and slow plot developments, the film builds tension. There are some scenes that may leave you on the edge of your seat, especially when Sarah attempts to evade her would-be killers. During one such excursion, she charges into the basement in the hopes of uncovering an exit to the immense house. She does locate one, thankfully, but struggles to throw the door open because of a padlock and her shaky, frightened hands.
One other hangup with real-time movies, especially thrillers, is that they don't always stand up to repeated viewings. That is the case with Silent House, mostly because the knowledge of what awaits Sarah in the end diminishes the tension in future viewings. Once you know what will become of her and her family, there's no reason to fear for them. Since the movie doesn't feature much in the way of constant character development or narrative beyond thrilling chases and tedious searching, there's a dearth of neat or freaky scenes to draw viewers back for multiple watches.
Worse, the film has a doozy of a twist ending. Honestly, I dug the conclusion enough that it made my sole viewing worthwhile, but I knew that I would never forget it. Unfortunately, the movie relies too much on its ending, rendering it even more difficult to sit through more than once. It's tough to watch a movie with well-guarded secrets at times, especially one that's as slowly paced as Silent House.
Silent House's only major saving grace is Elizabeth Olsen's performance. At first I wasn't thrilled with her character, because she was too much of a typical hysterical horror girl. She spent most of the movie crying and whining, which is understandable given the situation, but it's nothing new. Horror has been hung up on helpless girls for a long time, and while I won't go so far as to drop the dreaded "M" word on Silent House, I will say that Olsen's character is unfortunately just another hackneyed archetype. However, once you behold the denouement and fully comprehend Olsen's character, the archetype doesn't seem so cliche any longer. That's when you realize, albeit a bit late, that she did a fantastic job.
Outside of the huge plot twist and some basic tension, Silent House is your standard home invasion movie. It builds in a seemingly predictable manner, only to blindside you with a hell of a conclusion. Sadly, once you've experienced the tale, there's no reason to return, unless you're a forgetful person. Silent House is yet another horror movie that's too fixated on keeping secrets for its own good. Movies like it would do better to feature some memorable scenes and scares in addition to an unforgettable climax.
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