From the current issue of Clash.
Elizabeth Olsen’s performance in the exceptional Martha Marcy May Marlene depicted a striking ability to capture distraught, wide-eyed fear with a full range of nuanced undercurrents. Unfortunately for the audience, Silent House requires Olsen to do little other than exactly that. And that’s just where the disappointments begin.
The previous film from the directorial team of Chris Kentis and Laura Lau was 2003’s Open Water; admittedly not a classic, but certainly a film that delivered far more (in commercial terms, too) than its premise and small budget suggested. This haunted house thriller doesn’t. Outside of Olsen, the characters are caricatures of possible ill-spirit (a creepy father, a particularly dubious uncle and a mysterious childhood friend) and weakened further by performances in which subtlety in an alien concept – all of which, inevitably, leads to a typically barmy found footage twist via some baffling plot devices.
Silent House’s remaining selling point is that it has been edited to give the impression of being shot in one take. It’s been done before and doesn’t hold up to too much scrutiny, but it does mean that the film possesses a visual strength – especially as the cinematography emphasizes a sense of growing confinement. Such compensation, however, is futile.