Regardless of what you think of the end result, there’s something to be said about a movie (especially one buried in the many clichés of the horror genre) that attempts something different.
In the case of Silent House, the trick is that it is shot in one extended take using a consumer-grade camera. And, again, at 85 minutes long (minus time for opening and closing credits) that is a fine cinematographic accomplish, no matter how poorly you receive the actual film.
Silent House follows Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) around for roughly an hour and 20 minutes as she initially walks from room to room with her father and uncle in the vast lake house they are remodeling (which has no power, obviously), before ultimately, unsuccessfully trying to exit the house from apparent psychopathic squatters. Thuds are heard from upstairs, flashlights slowly pan one room then another then another, chases are had, escapes are attempted, and so on.
Now, as someone who fancies himself an amateur independent filmmaker, it is impossible for me to watch a movie like Silent House and not be impressed. The same way it is impossible for me to not be completely blown away by Edward Burns’ Newlyweds. The filmmakers are using resources that most anyone has available to them, and they’re using them rather well. Was Silent House shot in one single take? No, it was not. And to be honest, it isn’t that difficult to tell. (Gustavo Hernández’s original The Silent House was shot with the Canon 5D Mark II in one authentic take, which is one of the reasons it is slightly better than the US version.)
One take or not, there’s more to enjoy about Silent House than its technical proficiency. For one, there’s Elizabeth Olsen who, for my money, is equally as good here as she was in Martha Marcy May Marlene. She’s often forced to convey a multitude of emotions without cutting or turning away from the lens. It’s a wholly impressive feat. As is the filmmakers’ extremely limited use of gore, and sound effects and music to evoke forced frights.
In short, I know Silent House has been garnering mediocre-to-bad reviews, and I can understand why. Me? Despite the fact that I accurately guessed the ending roughly 20 minutes in, I remained equally impressed and thrilled throughout. Which is saying something. B+