MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
Last year, Elizabeth Olsen made quite a splash headlining the chilling thriller “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a film about a girl trying to escape the clutches of a dangerous cult. This gave her an enormous amount of street cred in the independent film world and went a long way to distance herself and her career from her other sisters, the Olsen Twins.
Now, she’s back with another challenging thriller, “Silent House.” This is a very low-budget film with an interesting catch that you usually only see in extremely independent features. In fact, it was most likely Olsen’s high profile turn in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” that helped this movie get a late winter theatrical release in theaters. As someone who remembers when fringe films got honest-to-god theatrical releases in the 70s and 80s, this was a welcome sight, even if the movie wasn’t all that great.
Based on an Uruguayan film, “Silent House” is a bit of a gimmick. Assembled with one single 86-minute take and no musical soundtrack, the movie is more an experiment as it is a mainstream film. It’s not a found-footage movie, as some have mistaken it for, since the camera does not exist in the narrative of the film. Rather, it’s a chance to see a long-form acting performance by Olsen.
Her character of Sarah finds herself trapped in a house she and her father are refurbishing. The windows are boarded up, and she realizes that an intruder is in the house with her. Sarah first tries to escape the house, and she also tries to save her family. Of course, there’s a secret in the house that she is also meant to discover.
The set-up of the film is intriguing and interesting. There’s some stilted acting moments (more from the few other cast members than Olsen herself, who really does carry the film), but on the whole, things move at a strong pace at the beginning. With a one-shot gimmick film, there are some limitations, though. While the movie delivers fantastic atmosphere and some effective scares, there are many missed opportunities where the camera doesn’t catch the moments with the most impact. Such is the case when trying to capture an entire film in a single take.
It’s also worthwhile to note that there are a few cuts hidden in the film. They only are noticeable in one or two places, so the filmmakers have done a fine job sticking to their own limitations, even if that does deliver a less powerful film.
Like many thrillers, the movie suffers from some third-act problems, and the pay-off at the end isn’t nearly as good as the set-up leads you to believe.
Still, it’s an interesting movie to watch and worth checking out for no other reason than for the mostly effective gimmick.
The Blu-ray includes a feature commentary with the co-directors. As a Universal disc, it also includes access to the pocketBLU app, BD-Live, Digital Copy and UltraViolet features.