CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: SILENT HOUSE (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: The interior of a summer home. It hasn’t been lived in for a while, and there are boxes piled everywhere, indicating that people are either moving in or moving out. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES enter the living room.)
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Okay. Let’s get started. Time to start fixing things up.
L.L. SOARES: Wait a minute. I thought you said tear things up.
MA: Why would I say that?
LS: Because it’s more fun than fixing things up!
MA: Who says that, anyway?
LS: I don’t know. I thought this house might belong to someone you don’t like.
MA: Gee, I’m not that bad!
LS: That’s your problem, dude! One of many, anyway.
MA: Haha. Anyway, I don’t feel much like fixing the place up either. It doesn’t sound like much fun. How about we review today’s movie instead?
LS: Good idea. You start. (pulls out cell phone) I have to tell all those people I just called that we won’t need their help trashing the place. It’s too bad; they were really excited about ripping this place to shreds.
MA: SILENT HOUSE (2012) is a new thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as a young woman terrorized in her summer home by an unknown intruder. The intruder is unknown because we never seem to get a good look at the guy—or guys.
SILENT HOUSE is based on the 2010 movie THE SILENT HOUSE by Gustavo Hernandez. The gimmick used in that movie was that it was shot in real time in seemingly a single take, and this was supposed to crank up the suspense. The same gimmick is used here in SILENT HOUSE, the American remake by directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau.
LS: Yeah, the original movie was from Uruguay. I haven’t seen it. And after seeing this remake, I won’t be spending much time looking for it.
MA: I can’t say that I noticed the “real time single take” effect in SILENT HOUSE. It didn’t really work for me, as it didn’t add anything to the suspense, and I hardly noticed it. It was almost an afterthought for me.
LS: I guess the fact that they did this whole movie in one take is impressive. Unfortunately, it’s a completely wasted effort. In a single take, if one thing goes wrong, you have to start all over again. I wonder how many times they had to do that before SILENT HOUSE got made? Not that it really matters. Like you, I barely noticed, and frankly, I didn’t care. Even if they did 100 takes, this movie would still be a disappointment.
(A glowing figure approaches them in the dark room. As it grows closer, they see it is CASPER, THE FRIENDLY GHOST)
CASPER: Will you be my friend?
LS: Haven’t you been in some of our earlier columns? We can’t seem to shake this guy.
MA (rolling eyes): Sure, I’ll be your friend, little ghost.
CASPER (to MA): Gee, thanks, Mister. You’re nice. Do you have any cookies?
MA: Cookies? What do I look like, a grocery store? I don’t go around carrying cookies on me.
(CASPER suddenly turns into a giant, ferocious ghost with big teeth and claws)
CASPER: Damn you! Where are my cookies?!!
(LS pushes him out of the room)
LS: Beat it, kid. We’re in the middle of something here.
MA: Thanks for getting rid of him.
LS: No cookies. Next time bring cookies!
MA: Well, the last time I brought cookies, someone ate them all!
LS: What can I say? I like cookies.
Why don’t you tell the nice people reading this column more about the movie. I am sure they are quite interested in finding out more about SILENT HOUSE.
MA: Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) and her dad John (Adam Trese) arrive at their summer home to pack things up, because they plan to sell the house. Sarah hears a noise upstairs that she thinks sounds like a person moving around, and so her dad goes up to investigate. Sarah hears a thud, and suddenly her dad isn’t answering her anymore.
MA: She discovers her dad upstairs, unconscious, on the floor, and his face is mutilated and he’s bleeding badly. She vows to get help and come back for him.
Sarah hears someone moving around the house. Terrified, she tries to sneak her way out of the house without being discovered by the deadly intruder. This process is easier said than done, because every door in the house seems to be locked from the inside, and without a key, she can’t escape. The windows are also boarded up, in order to protect the house against vagrants.
LS: Yeah, some kids have been throwing rocks at the windows, so they boarded them up. How convenient. Also, you forgot to mention that the power is all turned off and everyone has to use flashlights when they move around the house. This makes for a really scary setting—not. It just seemed lazy to me. Oh yeah, and, as usual with these movies, nobody’s cell phone works. They just can’t seem to get a signal around the summer house. More laziness!
MA: Sarah eventually eludes the intruder and escapes from the house, only to run into her uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens), who grabs his gun and takes them back to the house in order to rescue his brother, Sarah’s dad. Back inside the house, Sarah and her uncle search for her dad, hoping that whoever was inside the house is now gone. But of course, that’s not the case.
Will anyone make it out of the house alive? Does anyone care?
(LS is snoring)
MA: Wake up! We’re not done with the review yet?
LS: I’m sorry. I wasn’t sleeping. I was just resting my eyes.
MA: Did you care about this movie? I know I certainly didn’t. As I sat in the theater, I kept thinking that the title of the movie SILENT HOUSE referred to the audience I was sitting with in the theater. Not a scream or anxious sound to be heard.
SILENT HOUSE is one of the dullest movies I’ve seen this year. For long periods of time, nothing happens. We have to endure scene after scene of Sarah slowly making her way around the dark, silent house. Yawn!
And it’s a house she just can’t seem to get out of. The doors all seem to be locked from the inside, and her dad seems to have the only key. I’ve never seen a house with so many doors that have locks on the inside that require keys to open them. Outside, sure, but inside? And she can’t escape through the windows because they’ve been boarded up to keep out squatters. But every window? Even the ones on the second floor? I’m supposed to believe that there’s not a single window in the house she can escape through? I didn’t find this very believable at all.
LS: And there is an entire sequence where she goes downstairs to the basement. Why? Her injured father is upstairs. If you hear a noise in the basement, and you’re sure it’s not someone you know, why would you go down there? This is so stupid, little kids who just started watching horror movies would have more sense than Sarah.
MA: And once all the bad stuff starts happening, after her dad is injured, Sarah moves around slowly through the house without a sense of urgency. These scenes lack pacing and intensity. Why isn’t Sarah fighting for her life to get the hell out of that house?
LS: She’s too busy crying and whimpering and biting her sleeve to keep from making noise. It’s just damn annoying!
MA: And speaking of slow moving, the attacker is slower than Michael Myers. Sarah has time to hide and wait while the intruder slowly walks around the room. Just what the hell is he doing, anyway? Remodeling the place? He’s not trying too hard to locate Sarah, that’s for sure! The poor pacing really detracts from the suspense and scares during these scenes.
Uncle Peter also wins the “Stupidest Character of the Year” Award for his bone-headed move in this movie. Sarah escapes from the house, finds her uncle, tells him everything that’s happened, and what does he decide to do? Go back to the house! Sure, he wants to save his brother, but excuse me, what about your niece? You’re bringing her back to the house where she was almost killed? Stupid! So, Sarah, after escaping from the brutality of the house, returns to it and goes back inside. Yep. That makes a lot of sense.
LS: Well, at first she stays in the car and locks the doors. Until she realizes the back door has been left open. It’s then that she sees something, freaks out, and goes back into the house. Of course, we never see what scared her so much, but you assume the killers are all over the place.
MA: By the way, SILENT HOUSE is rated R, and I still don’t understand why. It’s not graphic, it’s not violent, it’s not intense, and it’s certainly not scary.
LS: It was rated R? Wow. I would never have guessed, if I hadn’t seen the poster outside. You’re right. There is nothing that earns this movie a rating above a PG-13. Sometimes I think movies try to get an R-rating just to look cool. But man, I want to see why on the screen if it’s R-rated.
MA: Worst of all , SILENT HOUSE has a ridiculous plot twist at the end that completely ruins the movie, which I guess isn’t saying much because it’s not much of a movie to begin with, but a strong ending certainly would have helped. Instead, the ending is even worse than all that came before it.
LS: We get a few clues along the way, mostly involving some odd photographs that keep popping up. But seriously, the ending of this movie was a complete cheat. I won’t explicitly say what’s going on, but I will say two words. FIGHT CLUB. If you saw that movie, then you know what this movie’s rip-off ending is all about. That trick worked exactly ONCE. And this is no FIGHT CLUB. It’s just incredibly lame.
Normally I wouldn’t give that much away, except this movie is SO AWFUL I would be glad if no one wasted their money to see it.
MA: Elizabeth Olsen does “terrified” very well, and we get treated to lots of scenes of her looking scared out of her wits and trembling, but these close-ups get tiring after a while. Olsen doesn’t do much else beyond looking scared in this movie.
LS: You think she did “terrified” very well?
MA: Well, it’s what she does in this movie. I’m being generous here.
LS: Okay. To get ready for this one, I watched Elizabeth Olsen’s big breakthrough movie from last year, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE. It was a small, indie flick where Olsen played a girl who escapes from a cult and tries to go back to a normal life with her sister. Some people said MARTHA MARCY was so good, Olsen should have gotten an Oscar nomination for it. I certainly thought it was an impressive debut. And frankly, because of that movie, I was looking forward to SILENT HOUSE. But the two movies are as different as dollars and dinosaurs. MARTHA was a riveting, wonderfully acted little film. SILENT HOUSE is a complete piece of crap. I felt bad for Olsen as I watched it, and I hope she makes better movie choices in the future. After MARTHA, she should be getting better scripts. But man, this one was heartbreakingly bad.
MA: I did like Eric Sheffer Stevens as Uncle Peter, even if his character makes that bone-headed decision to bring Sarah back to the house.
LS: You liked that idiot? Why?
MA: Well, the character was an idiot, but I thought Stevens had a likeable quality about him.
LS: I didn’t like anyone in this movie. Olsen just cries and whimpers and bites her hand the whole time. I like her as an actress, but I hated her character here. The other characters, specifically her father and uncle, are just morons. I never once feel any connection with them, and I couldn’t care less what happens to them. The father, especially, is a complete jerk. And by the end of this movie, I hated the characters even more.
MA: Yeah, the father is a jerk.
LS: The movie tries to justify its twist and everything that has come before it by suddenly introducing a traumatic event and trying to make us sympathize with a certain character. But the thing is, it was too little too late. It doesn’t earn our sympathy, and I just didn’t care. Damn, I hated this movie.
The only character I liked even a little bit was Julia Taylor Ross as Sophia, an old friend of Sarah’s who stops by early on for a visit when she sees there are people in the house again after being abandoned for so long. Sophia is okay, but when she appears a second time, later on, she’s just as stupid as everyone else.
(LS shouts in frustration)
(A closet opens and the TALL MAN from the PHANTASM movies jumps out)
TALL MAN (pointing at LS): Boy!
LS: I’m not a boy, Simple Simon. I’m a man.
TALL MAN (pointing at MA): BOY!
MA: I’m not a boy, either.
LS: Yeah, get your glasses checked. You need a stronger prescription.
TALL MAN: Oh well (shrugs and leaves the room)
MA: SILENT HOUSE was directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, the same husband and wife team that gave us the much-hyped OPEN WATER (2003), a movie that I was never crazy about. Lau also wrote the screenplay.
LS: I actually didn’t mind OPEN WATER that much. It was pretty simple, but it worked. This one doesn’t work for one minute.
MA: Yeah, that’s my memory of OPEN WATER. Pretty simple and okay, but I remember people loving it, and I just didn’t find it all that special myself.
I heard that SILENT HOUSE was a stylish thriller, but I didn’t find too much about it that was stylish. It also wasn’t scary or all that suspenseful. I was actually quite bored. There were way too many scenes of Sarah walking through her house without anything significant happening.
LS: This movie has as much style as an outhouse.
MA: Also, for a movie called SILENT HOUSE, I thought it did a poor job of establishing place. I never felt that I knew the house, and I found that this got in the way of the scares. At one point, Sarah’s running around the dark basement in tight close-ups, and I didn’t find these scenes all that scary because I couldn’t really see where the heck she was. I knew she was in the basement, but without really seeing it, it wasn’t that scary.
SILENT HOUSE should have bucked its title and made some noise. As it stands, it’s probably the least impressive movie I’ve seen so far this year. I give it zero knives.
LS: We will definitely be bringing this one up again when we do our WORST OF THE YEAR list months from now. You know, I was actually going to give this half a knife, or maybe one knife, because I like Elizabeth Olsen. But seriously, if she hadn’t been in MARTHA MARCY MAE MARLENE, and this was the only movie I had to judge her acting abilities by, I wouldn’t think much of her. So, judging this movie entirely based on what’s on the screen, not who is in it, I have to go with you. Zero knives.
I hope nobody who is reading this goes to see it. Rents it. Or even thinks “I wonder if I should see this on cable?” Just forget this movie exists. It’s lousy.
MA: I guess that means we didn’t like this one.
LS: You think?
MA: Well, now that we’re done, are you ready to unpack these boxes?
LS: Dude, I’m not unpacking anything, unless it’s cardboard and there are six beer bottles in it.
MA: I can’t say that I feel like unpacking either. The hell with it. We’ll just let Casper and the Tall Man do it.
LS: Let’s blow this joint.
MA: See you next time, folks!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares