Originally a Spanish-language film that’s less than a couple of years old (the gap between original and remake is getting ever shorter), this English language version adds rising star Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene) and like the original presents “real fear in real time,” a supposedly single-take horror film that attempts to make the scares as immediate and believable as possible.
However, while an admirable experiment – or should I say re-experiment? – Silent House only offers a handful of effective scares (which, I suppose, is more than can be said for many-a-modern horror) while the scales tip far too much into drawn out territory.
Olsen plays Sarah, a young woman who visits her old family lake house with her dad during the stage of it being renovated. When she hears a strange noise upstairs she sends her father up to check on it and before long things start to turn bad when she realizes there may be someone in the house who isn’t supposed to be there.
The main issue with Silent House is there’s just not enough scares or variety thereof. Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s film gets by on ominous and atmospheric tension for so long but after a while it gets rather tedious. Apart from a tense highlight sequence involving a dark room and the flashing light of a Polaroid camera, scares mostly consist of the jump scare variety as we follow Olsen slowly making her way through the huge house and jumping at every loud bang, squeaky floorboard and mysterious footstep she hears. Who is it in the house and why are they there? After a while it gets annoying the secret is being held back for so long.
What’s most disappointing about the film, however, is the ending. It’s one of the most confusing, under-developed and out-of-nowhere denouements to hit the big screen in some time. You can see what they were trying to do but it’s a case of fumbling around in the dark, pardon the pun, for a conclusion to the slasher-meets-haunted house movie antics that have come before and failing to come up with something satisfying.
Silent House at least has the gimmick – and it is a gimmick – of taking place as one continuous shot (even though it’s clearly just been edited together to appear as such) and in real-time, so it’s not just another home invasion horror. And at 85 minutes it’s a brisk watch. But the potential of the interesting concept is much greater than the execution. Olsen is, unsurprisingly, great but she is a bright spot in an otherwise largely disappointing horror experience.
Silent House is out in the UK on May 4th.