If you’re currently breathing in an abode with working electricity, drop what you’re doing, face East and thank the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers that you’re alive. Because Silent House, besides not being silent, is all about the importance of functioning electricity. The film is set in a lakeside residence without it.
The residence was apparently decorated by a lamp-obsessed hoarder with a taste for horrific wallpaper. The home’s basement, meanwhile, is a dim dungeon that would give horror author H.P. Lovecraft the willies.
Silent House is also shot in dreaded handheld camera style, the shaky, sometimes-dizzying style first used in 1999’s The Blair Witch Project and continuing in recent cinematic fare like Project X and The Devil Inside. Once again, Hollywood, you need to dump this style of filmmaking. Spend the money and run your cameras on those little train tracks that used to make movies so fluid.
Back to the film. The house itself is about all that’s redeeming in this flick, which features Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sibling of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, overacting her way through a Freudian plotline that is only resolved in the last five minutes of the picture.
Olsen plays Sarah, a 20-something woman who is marginally employed helping her father, John (Adam Trese), fix up the family’s summer home for an eventual sale. Typical haunted house hijinx ensues here, with mysterious knocks, hard-to-unlock doors and dark passageways adding to the lack of suspense. But that suspense here is perceived; we’re never treated to the full onslaught of excellent horror that the excellent The Woman in Black exudes.
Throughout, we’re faced with Olsen’s blood-splattered cleavage, heavy breathing and a battery of constipation-recalling facial shots, which do nothing to carry this film along.
If you do find yourself at this stinker, feel free to go late, escape to order popcorn or even shop awhile, because nothing of significance happens for the first 25 minutes.
Besides the creepy house, one other redeeming quality here is the music, which sounds a lot like the macabre Led Zeppelin moments during “Dazed and Confused” when an occult-obsessed Jimmy Page plays his Les Paul with a violin bow. I thoroughly enjoyed the soundtrack here, while the movie as a whole left me accessing Facebook during the screening.
“My dad thinks rats chewed holes through the wires” — Sarah, on why the Silent House has no electricity.
“When you’re done with your temper tantrum, see if you can get an electrician to come out here” — John, to his whiny brother, Peter.
“You’re really going to have to start making some progress on this closet” — John to Sarah, on her unruly storage space.
“We’re sticking together now” — Peter to Sarah, before he’s kidnapped/tied up by “the squatters.”
Obligatory Who reference
The Quadrophenia segment of a 1973 concert in Philadelphia, broadcast on the radio and widely bootlegged, begins with a Pete Townshend introduction: “The story is set on the middle of a rock in the middle of a stormy sea.” And that’s how this movie starts, with Sarah sitting on a rock formation in the water near the house the film is set in. She even sports a green military-type windbreaker during this scene, just as Jimmy, Quadrophenia’s protagonist, does on that album’s cover.
Other observations at the moviehouse:
I was issued a warning about using my mobile device to take notes during this movie. Because the film is so darkly lit, the Notes function really shone throughout the theater, and an employee gave me a lecture. I tried to keep the phone shielded through the rest of the movie.
The Cold Light of Day features Bruce Willis as the CIA-employed patriarch of a family that runs into trouble on a yacht anchored somewhere on a European shoreline. During the preview, we’re led to believe that he’s a heroic-yet-troubled spy operative, a role that seems to have permeated movies of late (Safe House, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, Haywire). On the way to the cinema, meanwhile, I heard a radio spot touting the CIA as a good place to work. So kids, if you want to join the fabled ranks of half the Watergate burglers and perhaps get lionized on film, by all means update your resumes and send them off to the CIA in Langley, Va.
- Greek mythology is making a huge comeback at the cinema near you in 2012. Wrath of the Titans features a creeped-out Cyclops character, while the Ridley Scott-directed Prometheus revisits the theme of the origins of mankind. I’d write more about this, but I’m really sick and tired of rolling this big rock up this hill all the time.
- Alcatraz + Star Wars = Lockout.