‘Silent House’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 27th, 2014 at 3:22 pm,

Eric Sheffer Stevens Elizabeth Olsen Silent House Silent House Review

The performances in Silent House – as well as the unique filmmaking presentation – elevate the movie above normal horror-thriller cliches

After a breakout performance in Sean Durkin’s 2011 drama film, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the infamous Olsen twins) is set to try her hand at the horror genre in Silent House. Olsen’s performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene earned her several “Best Actress” nominations – leading many film fans to question whether Silent House would impede Olsen’s rising star, or prove that even in a horror-thriller project the young actress can deliver a compelling performance.

Of course, Silent House isn’t just a basic slasher-horror film where brainless co-eds run up a flight of stars instead of out the front door. Directed by cinematography team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, who cut their teeth on the 2003 survival-horror film, Open Water (about a pair of scuba divers who are inadvertently left alone miles from shore in shark-infested waters), Silent House offers 88 minutes of “based on true events” story presented as a single, uninterrupted take.

Does the pairing of Olsen with the “high-concept” premise make for a gripping and unique theater experience?

Ultimately, the performances in Silent House – as well as the unique filmmaking presentation – elevate the movie above normal horror-thriller cliches; however, the film definitely has a few shortcomings that, despite the larger successes, undermine the overall effectiveness of the experience.

Taking cues from the 2010 Uruguayan film, The Silent House, Kentis and Lau’s Silent House story is pretty basic – which makes sense for a movie with only a few characters and an especially limited scale. We follow leading-lady Sarah (Olsen) through a tense, and at times horrifying, ordeal: Sarah, along with her father, John (Adam Trese), and Uncle, Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens), is in the process of fixing up the family’s dilapidated vacation home, in an effort to make the property more attractive when they attempt to sell it. Sarah begins to hear mysterious noises in the upstairs portion of the house, and when she and her dad attempt to investigate the sounds, it quickly becomes clear that they are not alone – nor are they safe. Whether or not the alleged “true event” inspiration of the film ever actually occurred remains unsubstantiated (and was a point of contention among fans of the 2010 Uruguayan film); however, “based on true events” or not, the fundamental storyline works well enough within the confines of the 88 minute timeframe.

Elizabeth Olsen Silent House Silent House Review

Elizabeth Olsen as Sarah in ‘Silent House’

Despite that simple set up, Silent House is a meticulously crafted film. Not only is the house isolated, every window is boarded up (to prevent local kids from breaking the glass) and all the doors are dead-bolted (to keep out squatters) – creating an atmosphere of dark isolation that works to the film’s advantage again and again. Sarah (as well as John and Peter) rely on handheld propane as well as LED lamps – which, coupled with the “uninterrupted take” presentation, will definitely keep audience members squinting into the darkness, along with the film’s main characters.

Silent House features a number of lengthy takes and, unsurprisingly, Olsen is up to the task – delivering a successful and engrossing performance. Admittedly, the role isn’t going to earn her too many accolades, but considering most of her onscreen time is spent reacting to sounds in the dark, her performance definitely brings added layers (and believability) to a role that might have otherwise been portrayed by a less convincing actress.

The “real time” presentation brings events to life in a compelling way, but at the same time, undermines any opportunity for audiences to gain insight into Sarah – beyond basic demeanor and rapport with Peter and John. Even as the darker mystery of the house unfolds, there’s very little chance for audiences to “get to know” any of the main characters – which is somewhat of a missed opportunity, especially given Olsen’s onscreen presence. Some moviegoers will no doubt defend the barebones portrayal of the characters, arguing that they are merely vehicles for the audience to become immersed in the creepy situation; however, given that they have a history with the “Silent House,” the choice ultimately detracts from the effectiveness of the film’s finale.

Eric Sheffer Stevens Elizabeth Olsen Adam Trese Silent House Silent House Review

Eric Sheffer Stevens, Elizabeth Olsen, and Adam Trese in ‘Silent House’

Regardless, the “hook” of 88 minutes of “uninterrupted” footage will definitely provide moviegoers with a unique theater experience, as the format ratchets up the tension in certain scenes and successfully captures the sense of claustrophobia that Sarah is experiencing throughout. With “found-footage” movies starting to wear thin (just look at Apollo 18 and The Devil Inside for proof), it’s hard to ignore the possibility that “real time” horror films could be the next go-to move for Hollywood executives. The prospects are certainly intriguing (until the concept is used up) – at least based on how the idea is employed in Silent House. While a few of the “transition” moments aren’t as fluid as others, the overall effect is pretty compelling.

That said, some moviegoers may be somewhat underwhelmed by Sarah’s over-arching “ordeal” – as Silent House is much more grounded than other horror-thrillers. There are a number of jump scares and truly creepy moments, but in this case, the real horror is in the uncertainty of each and every moment – which, for some viewers, might result in the opinions that there’s not a lot actually happening. Fright fans looking for on-the-nose Paranormal Activity-like visual set-pieces could walk away underwhelmed, as the film’s climatic “reveals” will, for some viewers, be somewhat of an unearned cop out (or, worse yet, overly obvious). However, that doesn’t mean that the film fails to present plenty of tense, albeit grounded, moments.

Moviegoers looking for a unique horror-thriller experience, who find the “real time” premise intriguing, are likely to enjoy Silent House in spite of its flaws – since the film manages to succeed in a number of its lofty ambitions. Unfortunately, the fundamental structure of the movie prevents the experience from doing anything more than immersing an audience in the moment to moment situation – leaving the characters and over-arching storyline struggling to gain traction or lay a workable foundation for the film’s finale.

If you’re still on the fence about Silent House, check out the trailer below:

[poll id=”282″]

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick – and let us know what you thought of the film.

Silent House is rated R for disturbing violent content and terror. Now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. I have read reviews about the original and people complained about the ending. Did they keep the same ending for this? (I didn’t actually read what the ending was so no spoilers please)

    • I won’t say whether it’s the same or not – but the run-up to the ending (and the actual ending) doesn’t work as well as the rest of the film.

      • I figured they wouldn’t make a drastic change. Thanks Ben!

        • From what I was told about the original ending, this one is completely different. This ending makes sense to me than what I heard the original ending was. This one is more believable

  2. Loved it! 10 out of 10! Great actressing! great story! great ending! Same goes for Martha Marcy May Marlene!

  3. Also saw the trailer for Lockout with this one..MARK MY WORDS. LOCKOUT WILL BE SWEET

  4. Worst movie I’ve ever seen- seriously it’s a waste of $$ and time

    • This is the worst movie I ever seen in my life ….I want my refund…it had no storyline no plot and no explanation

      • Shay – that’s what the trailers hinted at when they advertised “shot in real-time.” I personally am not a fan of the horror genre, the few that I have seen aren’t scary & have major plot-holes.

        • You should watch some of the old horror movies, when directors had some leeway to make good films, and movie studio executives rejected nepotism and were accepting good scripts. George Romero’s Dead films, the Exorcist, The Shining, etc. I saw an indie film back in 2003 called Session 9, which was low budget but huge in the fear factor. One of my favorite scenes ever in a horror movie was the last scene in Kubrik’s version of the Shining, when the show the old, black and white picture of Overlook Hotel residents celebrating July 4, 1921, and Jack Nicholson is in the photo. There was no blood or gore, the simple image of the picture was disturbing and lingered in the minds of viewers long afterwards. You just don’t see that type of film making in this genre anymore, and it’s really sad.

          • There are plenty of great, original, horror films released every year. They’re called indie films. Hardly anyone bothers to see them.

      • I agree this movie was terrible! You could not pay me to watch this movie again! Terrible

    • Maybe not THE worst movie I’ve seen, but probably top 10 of worst movies I’ve ever seen. Definitely was a waste of my time and money to watch. The acting sucked, the story line was weak, and what a stupid ending!


    • That sort of is their business, ain’t it? Watched it on video. Dull as dry dirt. blechh.

  6. This movie was by far the WORST movie I have ever seen. What a waste!

  7. This was one of those rare movies that is so bad I don’t even know where to begin. It’s not the acting, it’s the writing and directing that makes this movie the blemish on mankind that it is. The story, at times, makes no sense, nor do the actions of the main character, Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen). The fact that someone approved the making of this movie, and that people actually got money to make it,is an outrage on the level of the 2008 financial bail out.

  8. Hmm….Worst movie of your lives huh? I have to admit Every time I read someone say that it leaves me to believe that they haven’t seen many movies or enough of a variety of movies to know what a real trashy movie is. Then again it could be an exaggeration 😀 . These comments make me want to see it and I just might just to see if its Really that bad…

    • Hey, if you want to waste your time and hard earned money, that’s up to you. What was said about this movie is not an exaggeration. I kind of think that the claims of this movie being awful should be warning to those who haven’t seen it. But if you want to go through that sharp stick-in-the-eye experience that is sitting through this movie, be my guest.

  9. Lame

  10. This movie is a see on Free Movie Tuesday type movie. I wish i never paid to see that crap movie. I don’t care if any of you start getting pissed, but it sucked so bad. i actually started crackin jokes about it and people were laughing. haha. this movie is just random as hell..

  11. Just seen this movie last night & for those who haven’t seen it yet, I would wait for it to be on DVD. Although it’s based on true events, it’s a rather slow pace movie but a good one. Kudos to the actress because her performance was good.

  12. I’m only waiting for Silent Hill 2 to come out. I was mildly intrigued by this one’s similar title, but… It seems you have voiced my suspicions. Imagine that!

  13. I felt that when she was ‘crying’ she was laughing. Badddd terrible horrible movie! So confusing and just plan never watching that again.

  14. It got ti the point in the theatre that no one was scared but more like laughing at the horrible camera work horrible acting. And those actors were so 2faced..

  15. Seen the original so I already knew, but why would you spoil the movie for someone else? Alright if you ddn’t like it but keep the ending to yourself man. Not cool.

    • Tim – FYI. I deleted that other commentor’s spoiler-filled comment. Sorry if you got spoiled.

  16. Silent house was very suspenceful………like one guy said it seemed as if she was laughing instead of cryinig……but one thing was that the ending sucked it messed up the movie…..worst way to end a movie….
    lame ending

  17. OKay, i have seriously never done this before. Im not a person to complain, i give every horror movie a chance and honestly i thought Straw Dogs was bad, but this one just takes the cake. I want you to save your money and spend it on something worth while. This Movie Just absolutely Sucked and that is 88 min of my life that i will never ever get back. My girlfriend and sister were also very very pissed off and i can honestly say i had to write this review to save you your money. I wish i read reviews of how bad this movie was but now i know from experience. Thank you. And IM still pissed off of how bad this movie sucks and i saw it a week ago and still mad lol sorry.

  18. All you guys who are saying this is the worst film ever are wrong. You can’t just say that. Even if you hate it, that doesn’t make it the worst ever. If you think this is the worst, watch more movies, then comment on the movie website.

  19. Downright disgusting camera work. 70% of the movie was darkness, no plot, no character development, terrible acting, more darkness, a WTF ending, some more darkness. Waste of my life. My girlfriend and I, plus some girls in the back were clownin on this movie so much nobody else cared. Don’t see it, don’t buy it on Dvd, don’t download it, don’t redbox it. Its ass…

  20. I gave it 4 stars in my review. Though it’s style over substance presented here, the style is outstanding. And I loved the ending.

    • Finally! A review I can agree with. Silent House is an orginal, well acted concept that gives us the creeps and chills without the foolish bloodbath gimmicks and long, drawn out, overracted scenes and lengthy ‘this what happened way back when’ explanations. The movie does the horror/thriller justice. Olsen is a real talent and completely believable given the ‘real time’ concept and shortness of the film. Great ending.

  21. I have been watching movies for over 40 years of which many were horror movies, and this movie is by far one of the worst movies I have ever watched from beginning till end. The pace was soo slow with very little happening for about 25 minutes, then it tried to be a tense riveting movie, but it really lacked suspense, and many times you asked yourself “would a normal person go there” as the lead actress time and again went somewhere you never would, given the situation. The ending was pretty poor and when it did end, you left feeling that you could never get that time back again, and had nothing good to say about any part of this movie. Be very afraid……to pay anything to watch this. It would be time better spent to sit on a chair in a straight jacket then to watch this horror-able movie.

  22. This movie wasn’t filmed in “real time”. I don’t know why they kept saying that. I wish this article had talked more about Sarah’s past. It’s obvious that the house and the “monster” are metaphors for what happened to her during childhood, which is really the only interesting part of this movie.

  23. I enjoyed the movie although I wouldn’t see it again. The actors & actresses did their thing. It’s not easy to do 88 minutes of uninterrupted takes. (Folks probably don’t care about that, but I was impressed)

    More could have been done with the story to help you “get to know” the characters. I suppose it would have been a challenge to do that without dropping too many hints. I can see why it was left out, but something could have been done to increase the audience’s awareness as to who the characters were. The movie seems to drag in certain areas. It definitely dragged at the beginning and a few scenes in between. It gave me enough to keep me wanting more. I was a little turned off by the lack of facts in various areas and the constant “waiting” in other areas.

    • Got it! So rent or borrow but do not buy!

  24. Went to the drive in and seen silent house along with Cabin in the woods. I believe they should have paid ME to see either movie. 20 minutes into Silent House I am screaming for someone to Please Kill “Sara” I had more fun making fun of this movie than watching it. Plot- Non existent Acting- Horrible. best way to make a movie for $20. To sum it up. This was 2 hours of my life I will never get back.
    Wait for this one on the .99 Cent rental rack. It should be there VERY SOON

  25. worst low budget movie in 2012. Stupid movie same as cloverfield makes me want to vomit after 30mins watching.

  26. worst low budget movie in 2012. movie same as cloverfield makes me want to vomit after 30mins watching.

  27. I am not a 1 for horrors am a little s***** arse butthos 1 my god i wud have let my 4yr old watch it!! Nd who was the girl wiv the dark hair there 1 min and gone the next didnt make sense. Nd why was her uncle involved in al that disgusting stuff that went on wen shes was child i no it was wrong for her dad but her uncle aswell it left us confused if i neva read the reviews nothing realy wud have made sense shocking film the dvd is getting snapped and put itln the bin i wudnt show my self up lending the film out to any 1 wudnt want to waste there time watching it

  28. WORST MOVIE EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  29. Dumb movie, 88 min of my life just waisted away.