Silent House

“Silent House”, the single take, single camera home invasion film starring Elizabeth Olsen, is a frustrating and ultimately disappointing movie.

It’s unfortunate, because I went in with no expectations whatsoever, and what hopes I wound up having for the film the film built itself with its engrossing first two acts.

The third act, however, was such a let down that I (sadly) have to discount the excellent first two-thirds.

Olsen, her father and her uncle return to the family vacation home after years away. They intend to fix the house up a bit and sell it, as recently they’ve been running into issues with break-ins and squatters. Once there, however, it’s discovered that someone is in the house with them. After one of them is attacked and Olsen realizes the dangers she’s in, she discovers to her chagrin that the efforts the family has made to prevent break-ins are now obstacles to her own escape. The padlocked doors and boarded windows keep her inside the house and in danger.

During this portion of the film, the movie is very successful at preying on some of our most basic fears. Fear of the dark (the house has no electricity) and fear of not being safe in our own home. The single-camera / single-take style of the film lends a first person point of view feeling to the movie. Events occur in real-time, and the camera (though focused on Olsen mainly) puts you right in the thick of things. It’s an immersive style, and it certainly is effective at ratcheting up the tension.

Olsen is due a large share of credit, as well. Her performance is excellent here. She’s utterly believable as a young woman nearly frightened to death by the proceedings. A lesser performance would not have helped this movie in any regard… Essentially for a huge chunk of this movie she has no dialogue, and no one to play off of. It’s an extended study of a woman in fear. The camera stays with her as she hides, sneaks, struggles and runs to try to get away to safety. She presents genuine fear as she explores new, potentially unsafe areas. She’s completely credible as she tries to keep quiet and avoid screaming or breathing too loudly. If this movie hadn’t gotten an absolute home-run from its lead, it would have been practically worthless, as so much of the film is dedicated to showing her reactions and emotions as the events unfurl.

Olsen is a one woman show here, and she turns in an ovation worthy performance.

Which is why it’s so disappointing that the movie itself doesn’t. Between the engrossing camera and directorial work and the first-rate performance from Olsen, I was really invested in this movie coming down the home stretch. It was heartbreaking to watch it pull up lame. I wont spoil the end for you, but seeing as it’s such a large factor in my final assessment here, I wouldn’t feel right in not at least putting up the caution sign for you all. It’s a choice that the story makes that retroactively weaves its way back through all of the events up to that point, and ultimately undermines all the good work the film had put in previously.

I had some serious, serious issues with it, and I can’t give a film a grade on the first two-thirds alone. A movie is an entire package, and the end of this particular movie left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I can’t shake the taste.


37 thoughts on “Silent House

  1. Once enough time has passed that Silent House‘s twist ending isn’t as ripe for spoiling as it is on the film’s release weekend, I think we should do a back-and-forth on the better merits of the whole movie and, more specifically, on the ways in which the climax undermines the rest of the movie. I’m with you that that twist comes dangerously close to upending the entire movie in the worst way possible, but as much as a film is a total package I think the film’s strong points are enough that it’s worth seeing for them alone.

    Olsen, though, is undeniably outstanding as you say. Makes me even more pissed that Martha Marcy May Marlene is so backed up on Netflix, because I don’t want to wait until 03/20 to watch it.

    • I’ve got your GST review open in another tab actually, going to read and comment. See you got an interview – NICE!

      As for this, I could do some back and forth with it. I did REALLY like the first bit, but I have to tell you up front. I dont think the twist comes “Dangerously close” I think it tosses the whole apple cart upside down. I was like “Ohhh nooo. Really?”

      With a more standard ending Andy I wind up at like a B+ maybe even A- here…

      But yeah, if you ever wanna to anything along those lines, you have my gmail I’m pretty sure.

  2. I appreciate the warning here, Fogs. There is very little that is more likely to make me dislike a movie than a bad ending. I know part of that is just due to it being the last part, and so sticking in the mind more readily, but a bad ending also tends to make me wonder why I just spent 90-150 minutes watching a movie that went nowhere or went somewhere stupid.

    • Yeah, actually, a lot of times its like that, but this time I thought it was more a case of I got bummed out that it wrecked the good stuff up front! I mean, the beginning of this flick was pretty good I thought!

      The third act though was real bad, in my opinion. Real bad.


  3. Unfortunately, I didn’t like the first 2/3 of the movie or the final third either. I was getting a headache from the jerky camera (Steadi-cam, anyone?). Most of the so called scares were done in darkness so I couldn’t tell what was going on and a lot of times the films was out of focus. (I wanted to say “What the focus that?” but I didn’t). I’m still confused by the ending but if it were explained to me I really wouldn’t care. So far the worst film I’ve seen this year and a strong candidate for my worst list. I give this a 1.

    • LOL. Al? If you didnt like the first 2/3s? I can see why you’d say its the worst movie of the year. LOL.

      Cause that end was pretty rough. Really rough. And I LIKED the first parts.

      To me, I didnt mind the camera style, I guess I’m getting inured to that stuff. But the fact they kept it quiet and let the creaks and groans speak for themselves was pretty cool. And then all the darkness was pretty creepy too.

      But it all came crashing down hard for me… so if for you, you didnt even care for the first part? Eeesh. Yeah, rough.

  4. Though I haven’t seen this one, it sounds like such a wasted opportunity to improve the original’s shortcomings and more an exercise in undermining the American demographic once again. Why not give the original a wide release? There’s hardly any dialogue in it so the xenophobic fear of subtitles is almost a non-issue. From what I’ve read, the two are mirror images: great female lead? Check. Three shots blended into one? Check. Ultra-lame resolution? In spades, my friends!

    The Uruguay (Uruguayan? Uruguise?) original took so much time building up to a truly twisted and weird ending, but crapped on the entire concept. I also don’t want to dump spoilers out there, but it took the road of 2003’s High Tension from France wherein the conclusion warranted the outburst “Wait! That LITERALLY can’t happen!” Form over function is becoming an irritating trend in horror films these days. Feh.

    Is it any surprise that both versions of Silent House have the exact same rating on IMDb? 5.4. What a pitiful shame people bank on style and tired, nonsensical twists instead of honest story telling.

    • I agree in spirit, but for the most part, its audiences faults more than the studio.

      Studios (I’m sure) have studies and stats that show how foreign releases do, and it keeps them at bay. So, expect foreign remakes. Its as easy as that. They’re just coming… there’s nothing we can do.

      Meanwhile though, if the two are mirror images, I wouldnt defend the orignal too much then. LOL

      I’ve heard of high tension, is that something you’d recommend or no?

      • High Tension has some pretty realistic violence, is stunningly beautiful at times, and the story is so good in its simplicity until the twist. The writers didn’t so much drop the ball, moreso replaced said ball with a live hand grenade. It’s just so needlessly dumb to set up a sadistic, misogynistic axe-murderer only to say, “Nope! Wait!” at the very end just for the hell of it. At its core, it’s an interesting glimpse into psychological trauma, but the ultimate reward is cheapened for a truly balls-out crazy and inexplicable gotcha twist.

        And I must agree with your point placing blame on the American audience. I read a study that the majority of movie goers complain about all these remakes or sequels, but box office results always point to success in the familiar. Most people aren’t prepared for new experiences, finding comfort in what they already know. Amid their complaints there’s an underlying intrinsic betrayal. I’m to blame too as I’ve seen countless remakes after watching (and owning in some cases) many foreign films. Typically, however, the remakes are pointless husks of the original material (The Uninvited vs. Tale of Two Sisters? You have GOT to be kidding me….) or, worse still, shot for shot regurgitation (what I’ve heard of Let The Right One In vs. Let Me In).

        Lethargic defeatism is truly the only thing we can do. Just shrug and move on.

      • “LOL” is no longer really sufficient, is it? Because your first paragraph actually DID make me laugh out loud Meric, and I didn’t think the old standby was going to cut it 😀

        I think I’ll stay away.

        Yeah, I’m torn on the ramkes of foreign films. Frankly, its always been one of the categories where I dont mind remakes that much… I’m not really a connoisseur by any means. And I understand people’s aversion (even though I’m not adverse). Of course, as usual, there’s the artistic integrity issues, but… like you say, it is what it is.

        Foreign remakes just dont boil my blood like remakes of classic American flicks do.

  5. Yeah I have mixed feelings about this one. I was a little more okay with the ending because I telegraphed it REALLY early on, but that itself was a problem and so when the big “twist” happened I was like “Okay and?” I heard they re-shot the last ten minutes after a screening at Sundance so I’m interested to see what the original ending looked like.

    From a technical aspect though I loved the film and the scene with the Polaroid camera will probably end up being on some list later on this year. And Olsen really is quite talented (the others were kinda eh though) so it’s a shame this wasn’t better.

    • I’m gonna disagree. They partially telegraphed it early on. Spoiler free though still, I saw the motivation for the attack (that was what was telegraphed) but the identity of the attacker wasn’t….

  6. As for High Tension (or Haute Tension whatever you want to call it) NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. If you didn’t like Silent House’s ending then you will hate High Tension’s ending

  7. The majority of this movie delivered all I expected it to do with numerous frightening scenes; but as you said, the last 3rd of the movie was a flop.Even worse than that, it was insulting to the movie viewer to have such a detailed explanation to tell what actually happened in the first 2/3rds of the movie. One could figure it out on their own.

  8. Doesn’t sound like you had a good movie experience this weekend. But have faith..Avengers is coming soon.

    • I know, right. Hey, actually next weekend looks good. The new Will Ferrell, plus 21 Jump Street has been getting great reviews.

      If you’re interested in either of those, let me know

  9. I do have to apologise, but I skimmed through the review a little bit so as not to be spoiled.

    But your overall review disappoints me a lot! 😦 From the trailer I got really excited. A real, proper tense little horror film. It feels like ages since we’ve had one of those. And yet… it all goes wrong in the final act. Why doesn’t that surprise me? *sigh*

    • I understand, no need to apolgize. Because if you havent heard, there IS some major spoilage potential out there for this one. So be warned.

      I wont tell you more, other than to say that for awhile it really WAS “a real, proper tense little horror film”

      But it didnt stick the landing in my opinion 😦

      As always, please circle back and let me know what you thought if you DO see it, k?

  10. I have to disagree with you on this one. Endings like this are always divisive but me and the 3 others I saw this with, Lindsay included, all were on board with it (we also loved High Tension). The same thing happened with The Last Exorcist. I often wonder how people want movies to end when they hate the one they got. Without getting spoilery, did you just want something completely straight forward? I understand people seeing it as somewhat problematic but for me it just gave much more to discuss and think about following the film. Throughout we were spitballing ideas about what direction the story would go in which was really fun. Technically, performance/direction-wise it was spot on, and as a horror fan I was really happy with this movie. I really love Elizabeth Olsen too, so she sold me on the film’s complete package. With lesser talent I may have been less convinced.

    • Heh.

      I just did a full podcast on this one this weekend… so I really got to hash it all out.

      YES. It would have been a much better film if they kept it in a straight line. They were doing so well with it at the beginning when it was playing it straight up! If they had continued it through, Jess, I’m seeing it as a B+ maybe even A- in my book.

      Olsen was great, I’m a horror fan too, yes the film was amazing technically. But that ending pissed me off. LOL. I dont know how else to say it Jess… I have to call it like I see it! I wish we could hit spoilers, if you want hit me at my gmail and we can have it out, but yeah… I really, really was upset that they chose that direction.

      Plus, the other two bloggers on the podcast (Andy of A Constant Visual Feast/GoSeeTalk and Brian Roan of both hated the ending less, but still admitted it brought the movie down and thought it was executed poorly…

      Just sayin’.

      But hey! This is what is about here, I love this shit! Bring on the dissention!! 😀 😀

      • I’m not saying that I can’t see someone disliking it. Personally, I just thought it held up with what we had seen before in the film and justified why things went down. That might be too ambiguous haha. I will have to listen to that podcast which hopefully gets into spoilers and maybe I’ll get back to you later 😉

      • Yeah, it does. Bigtime – we actually spent way more spoiler time than non spoiler time.

        It would be cool if you would give it a listen, it’s going to be the inaugural podcast for Brian and his site. So, you know how it is, it would be a nice help to get him a dl or two 😉

        I’ll be pimping it up officially once he gets it on the net somehow! 😀

  11. Well, that’s pretty disappointing. I dig Elizabeth Olsen and I like this movie’s concept, but I don’t know if I want to sit through an entire movie only to be pissed by the ending. What is it about modern horror movies that have shitty endings anyway? Another example is The Last Exorcism, which I really enjoyed until the last 15-20 minutes. Totally killed it for me.

    • I didn’t happen to see that one, but you’re right on on this one.

      I just did my weekly podcast, and Tank and I see eye to eye. Also did a guest spot where we went over it, and even though I hated the end the most, everyone had to agree the end was pretty rough.

      Not recommended Big E. Dont do it.

  12. This movie sucked. Your review rocked. That’s all. haha.

    okay, I must say more:

    I was sooo disappointed. Like you, no expectations. but ended up so upset with what I watched. I rarely venture out to see films of this nature, so I held a small candle of hope. WRONG.

    And it is a shame too. You’re right. Because Olsen did a great job in her part but ultimately it’s like they had an idea for the film but come the third act they had like 3 different writers fighting about how the climax and the end should come about.

    upset about this film. Thanks for the review.

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