Based on the original Uruguayan film Le Casa Muda (The Silent House), the abbreviated Silent House is an American remake. Claiming to have been shot in one continuous take, Silent House follows Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) who visits a Victorian lakehouse with her father and uncle to renovate in preparation for sale. The house is in a terrible state and Sarah’s father and uncle argue resulting in the latter driving away. There is a knock at the door and then bad things start to happen.
It’s a simple premise to begin amping up the tension, but Silent House’s success relies almost entirely on its central performance. In Elizabeth Olsen it has a star in the making. Being part of a burgeoning ‘found footage’ sub-genre, Silent House‘s camera focuses almost entirely on Olsen for the whole of its lean 90 minute running time and she proves excellent at purveying the sense of terror and dread that Sarah experiences during her time in the house.
As the house has no electricity there are various moments of pure darkness that are presumably used to hide any cuts of second takes, leaving the audience completely engaged with the ‘real time’ action. It really is a novel way to shoot a film and much like the popular TV show 24, it works like a charm. Silent House does lose its way toward the end, and without giving too much away, you might find it disappointing, but the original wasn’t perfect either.
Fans of the original will not see the point of a remake that brings little else to the table, but I’ve always felt this was a problem with subtitled films. When you should be watching the action on-screen, you are in fact reading the words, which is not what the film-maker intended. In some cases, like The Orphanage, the speech is so quick that you almost can’t keep up with the subtitles and certainly aren’t watching the action. Therefore it is easy to criticise a film like Silent House, but at least it can be viewed as it was intended.
Silent House never relents in trying to terrorise Sarah and through her the audience and the results are a completely chilling and worthy remake of a good foreign language original. It also reinforces Elizabeth Olsen’s credentials as a superstar in the making, and someone needs to offer her a big budget role in the not-to-distant future.