‘Silent House’: The Reviews Are In!

'[Elizabeth] Olsen rivets our attention, and the camera's, so fiercely it verges on unbearable,' Kat Murphy of MSN.com writes.

Although based on a 2010 Uruguayan Spanish-language horror film, “Silent House” is supposedly inspired by actual events, which only adds to its creep factor. It’s not a movie for the faint of heart. Elizabeth Olsen stars as a young women who finds herself trapped in a remote cottage where she is haunted and hunted by unknown horrors.

While critics seem divided over whether it is mostly good or bad — the film is currently hovering around the 50 percent Fresh mark over at Rotten Tomatoes — almost all of them had high praise for the technical construction of the film, which was uniquely done by filming the entire movie in one long, continuous shot.

Read on through the “Silent House” reviews … if you dare.

The Plot
” ‘Silent House’ introduces us to our soon to be harried heroine, a 20-something who’s returned with her father to their old family vacation home (in the woods and by a lake, natch) to pack it up, board it up, and say farewell to it before it goes on the market. But it’s going to take a lot of work — squatters have defaced it; rust has wrecked the plumbing; and mildew’s worked its way into the electrical system. The house is much like Sarah … she’s barely hiding lots of peeling paint, weak foundations, and broken windows to the soul. But why? We will find out, but first it is time to get scared! Dad and Sarah are soon joined by Uncle Peter who’s come to help with the tidying, a neighbor Sarah really doesn’t remember from childhood summers pops by, and a creepy little girl lurks just out of sight in convenient shadows. The players are in place, and the suspense begins. It’s just little things at first; a noise here, a falling piece of plastic sheeting there. And then Sarah’s dad is attacked, his eye bloodily gouged from his skull. Sarah tries to run — and she does escape the dwelling of doom, but she’s lured back inside by clever, insidious means. To reveal much more would be spoilery, but I will say that Silent House is the kind of movie you must suspend all disbelief for (OK, maybe some of the embarrassingly foreshadowing dialogue is diss-worthy) in order to enjoy. Just watch the girl, follow her, and get caught up in her terror. It works on a visceral level, similar to the French film of a few years back, ‘Ils.’ ” — Staci Layne, Horror.com

The Technical Achievement
“Like Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ or the original movie, the conceit of the film is that it’s entirely shot in one take with only a couple obvious times where they could have easily cheated. If you weren’t informed in advance that the movie was done in one take, you may not even realize it as the camera person/DP follows the characters up and downstairs, in and out of the house in an incredibly fluid way, barely missing a beat as we go from mundane packing activities to intense horrors. [Directors] Kentis and Lau have done a terrific job creating an atmosphere of tension, keeping the viewer on the edge never knowing what to expect or in fact, what exactly is going on. This helps to make some of the more obvious jump scares work better than they might normally, something that can also be attributed to Nathan Larson’s subtle but effective score. Even so, the filmmakers sadly go for many often-used clichés rather than trying to find original ways of scaring people. At times, it’s hard not to feel like the ‘Paranormal Activity’ movies were a bigger influence on them than the original film since they use many of the same tricks.” — Edward Douglas, ShockTillYouDrop.com

Olsen’s Performance
“Olsen was heartbreaking as a possessed soul in ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene.’ So too in ‘House’: We don’t so much watch this expressive actress’s fear and suffering during Sarah’s hellish journey as viscerally share it. Her screams, gasps, sobs aren’t obligatory ‘slasher’ sound effects; they get inside our heads, as though we too were dreaming, desperate to discover the source of a child’s weeping somewhere in the dark. For 88 minutes, Olsen rivets our attention, and the camera’s, so fiercely it verges on unbearable. ‘Silent House’ is her movie.” — Kat Murphy, MSN.com

The Final Word, Pro-Con-Pro-Style
“A denouement more textbook than thrilling stalls some of the movie’s power. But the early chills are potent, intense. Husband-and-wife team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau previously joined forces on their superbly unsettling 2004 shark tale, ‘Open Water. ‘ Here again the directors work with an understanding that implication is always more terrifying than visual revelation, that great sound design can make scenes in pitch blackness vivid, and that there’s nothing so nerve-rattling as sticking close to a panicked character unable to distinguish reality from her own unraveling.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

” ‘Silent House’ features several genuine scares and giggle-inducing jumps — and, since this isn’t your typically over-edited contemporary horror movie, they don’t feel screechy or cheap. One sequence, in which the flashes from a Polaroid camera provide a room’s only light, offers a tantalizing, mounting feeling of fear. But once the ultimate twist is revealed, you may find yourself feeling frustrated — or even disgusted — rather than frightened.” — Christy Lemire, The Associated Press

Thankfully, ‘Silent House’ is smart about its scares as well as its delivery method. Because there are precious few breaks in the action, the filmmakers can’t cheat the cramped spatial geography of the mirror-heavy setting with quick cuts, as they might in a standard slasher flick. By setting such rigid parameters, by establishing that we will witness only what can be physically orchestrated in real time, Kentis and Lau keep us on our toes. … The slow-burning dread of ‘Silent House’ is inescapable, even to those who attempt to rise above fear by pondering the movie’s ‘gotcha’ alchemy. ‘Of course,’ they will muse reassuringly, peeking through fingers as the jolt subsides. ‘Another actor must have been hiding in the shadows. How clever. Good thing I saw that coming, or I might have gotten scared.’ ” — Andrew Lapin, NPR

Check out everything we’ve got on “Silent House.”

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