Why does it always happen this way? What starts out as an genuinely interesting approach to a horror film climaxes with the thud-heard-round-the-world.
Here's the thing, when you already have one excellent gimmick (cobbling an 88-minute movie together out of 10 shots, so it feels like it's happening in real time) you don't need any more! But by the end Silent House, starring Elizabeth Olsen, just can't help itself. And it's crushingly disappointing to watch. Spoilers ahead.
Based off the film by Gustavo Hernández, the American version of Silent House was directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau of Open Water fame. Where Open Water succeeds and Silent House fails is that, while both films were based on the "it looks real" gimmick, at the end of Open Water we don't find out that the sharks were secretly raping the husband years ago.
Open Water is simple: Couple is abandoned in the ocean, couple slowly dies in the ocean. It's painful, horrifying, soul-sucking and gruesome to watch. We wish Silent House had just let us watch a group of folks die horribly, while trapped in a dark house — but alas, it was not meant to be.
This low budget flick stars the doe-faced Elizabeth Olsen (of Olsen twin lineage) and two sacks of flour (who played the character's father and uncle). Together Olsen and the sacks of flour are boarding up their lonesome summer home, conveniently located in the no-cell-zone forest. With no power and no lights (they only have lanterns and candles) and only one car, these three are ripe for a good old-fashioned slaughterin'.
Actually, we'd like to point out one exceptionally clever thing about this flick: Since the house is being closed off, all of the windows are boarded over with plywood and and the doors are almost all locked from the inside, with padlocks. Which means most of the really terrifying scenes in the early parts are happening in artificial darkness, just inches away from daylight.
Within minutes, the Uncle takes off, and the Father is conked on the head — leaving the little doe all alone with something malicious in the house. Cue 80 minutes of the main character making the "I want to scream but I can't, so I'll just make dry heaving expressions under a table" face.
We had high hopes that Silent House would utilize its real-time scenario to heighten the tension and scare tactics. And when things start to fall apart for the pretty, young protagonist, it's genuinely scary. But as the minutes ticked by we slowly started to realize that every big scare is getting marred by aggressive shaky cam. It gets to the point where you just can't tell what's going on. After a while, the whole thing starts to feel like an old MTV Reality TV show where they made teens stay in haunted pet hospitals, or something. Because while we may have seen a ghost, we know that was just wishful thinking.
When things finally start to get clear, Silent House uses every horror movie trope in the metaphorically locked children's safe to reach its goal of total exploitative mediocrity. Giving the protagonist a camera flash to navigate a dark room, old polaroids of horrific past deeds, and finally a psychotic break for the main character. It's just too much all at once, and hell bent on involving two characters we didn't care about. Once it becomes obviously clear that little Olsen is no longer in danger, we check out emotionally.
Overall, it's a damn shame that this fun real time POV movie is wasted on a story with such a lazy ending.