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SILENT HOUSE (director: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau; screenwriters: based on Gustavo Hern√°ndez’ film La Casa Muda/The Silent House/Oscar Estevez; cinematographer: Igor Martinovic; music: Nathan Larson; cast: Elizabeth Olsen (Sarah), Adam Trese (John), Eric Sheffer Stevens (Peter), Julia Taylor Ross (Sophia), Adam Barnett (Stalking Man), Haley Murphy (Little Girl); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Laura Lau/Agnes Mentre; Open Road Films; 2011-USA/France)

“Unpleasant viewing experience.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Husband and wife co-directorsChris Kentis and Laura Lau, sharing co-directing honors for the first time,(Chris Kentis gets solo credit for directing both the couple’s two other films “Open Water” & “Grind”),direct an English-language remake of the Uruguayan scare film La Casa Muda (2010). The unsettling arthouse horror thriller, filmed in one long take, is unpleasant to watch because it is shot almost entirely in the unlit house on a handheld digital camera, making it difficult to see the screen, and also because its unpleasant narrative when drawn out to the light seems implausible.

At a secluded lake home, we meet a tense teenager named Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), her bossy young father John (Adam Trese) and his irritating wise guy younger brother Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens). The trio have returned a few days ago to their abandoned moldy family home to renovate it before putting it on the market for sale. The gimmicky photography of the entire film photographed in a single shot and in real time (Alfred Hitchcock first did such a shot in 1948 with Rope) cannot cover-up the unpleasant viewing experience.

The filming location of the scary house is in NYC’s suburb of New Rochelle.

Things get spooky when Sarah’s father is found unconscious on the floor after investigating strange sounds in the house, at his daughter’s request. Sarah freaks out when home alone in the dark and creepy stuff starts happening, like possible ghosts and ongoing scary inexplicable noises. The frightened Sarah flees the house that has no phone service or electricity, and meets Peter returning from an errand in town by car. Instead of going back to town for help, Peter investigates using a battery-powered lantern and the shadowy figures roaming around in the dark make themselves known and refresh Sarah’s repressed memory of the ugly events she participated in as a child by showing her old photos.

The film is resolved in an annoying contrived way by a twist ending, leaving the attentive viewer wondering if what seemingly went down was real or was it all in the unstable heroine’s imagination.

This indie arthouse film can be appreciated only for its technical novelty. That it was made on such a low-budget and still looks like a professional job, is a compliment to the team filmmaker’s craftsmanship. Otherwise, it leaves me speechless.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”