Hallow-vent Calendar - Day 31: Silent House

Welcome to our Hallow-vent Calendar; a horror-film-filled daily countdown to our favourite spooky celebration, Hallowe'en. For Day 31, David Ames heads home to Silent House...

For the final day of Halloween, I wanted to watch something that I enjoyed immensely but haven’t actually seen in years. I drudged through the muddled convolutions of my brain and the obsessively organized shelves of my movie collection and came across a film that Fox and I had seen in the theater and I had bought immediately upon its release but that I have not seen in years. Today, I watched Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s 2011 psychological horror film Silent House. 

Silent House is an adaptation of the 2010 Uruguayan horror film La Casa Muda (The Silent House) and was supposedly based on true events, although that last bit may be more fiction that reality. The film follows Sarah as she returns to her childhood home accompanied by her father and uncle. They are fixing up the house in order to sell it. Was comes next is eighty-eight straight minutes of unbridled tension and fear as people invade the house. Faceless men accompanied by a strange yet familiar little girl haunt and terrorize Sarah as she struggles to maintain her sanity while her father and uncle are taken. Only a childhood friend can help her make it through the night.

This movie caught me off guard. I had not really seen any previews for it in 2011 and Fox and I were just hanging out in a major metropolitan area when we decided to hit up the theater. Silent House seemed like a good bet and we ventured in unaware of what was about to befall us. I loved the film, as did Fox, and despite mixed to negative reviews from many critics, I truly still enjoy it.

The film is presented as one continuous take, much the same way that Irreversible is but this is much more seamless. With no cuts or breaks, there is never a chance to reset or for your brain to relax and so you feel on edge at all times. Also, there is next to no score which provides an otherworldy, almost ethereal quality to the film. You can hear everything and it all echoes, creating a strange ambience. This film is nothing if not incredibly atmospheric. Along with the minimal score is the minimal lighting. I can’t be sure but it looks as though the entire film is shot with only natural light which lends a strange glowing, realistic quality to everything you see.

Along with the strange way in which it is shot, the film is permeated with symbolism. From the bleeding toilet to the blood soaked bed to the constant references of alcohol abuse and childhood playthings, it becomes obvious that the movie is about something far more terrifying than home invasion. Laura Lau crafts a screenplay that is rife with images which disturb and cause us to think.

The last major element of note is the performances. Adam Trese (plays the father) and Eric Sheffer Stevens (plays the uncle) are good in their roles and when the character shift of the father comes into play at the end, you definitely don’t see it coming. Sadly, their performances can’t handle the sheer tour de force that is Elizabeth Olsen. She is amazing and convincing. Her shifts from scared to determined to twisted and back again buoy the film. She carries this movie the way Tom Hanks carried Castaway or Will Smith carried I Am Legend. In spite of all the negativity in reviews, her performance was always lauded. Even if you aren’t a fan of horror movies, this film is worth the watch just to watch Olsen blow you out of the water.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out Silent House, now is as good a time as any. Just make sure you can be in the dark as the film makes wonderful use of darkness and negative space. Also, crank the volume because the minimal score that does exist is great and when there is no music, you will definitely want to hear everything. Check out what, for me, is Olsen’s best role so far.

Image - IMDb

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