By Shane M. Dallmann
Okay, here’s the “real time” experiment (plenty of ‘shaky cam,’ but NOT a ‘found footage’ deal) starring Elizabeth Olsen and promising 88 relentless minutes of terror taking place in a house that she, her father and her uncle are renovating for future sale.
The trailer is notoriously vague as to just what sort of terror is going to take place, but we’re told that it’s “inspired by true events” which, with a little digging, turn out to have “actually” taken place in Uruguay in the 1940s. SILENT HOUSE also turns out to be a remake of a very recent South American film by that title. What we have here turns out to be a very difficult film for me to review. Since I haven’t seen the original, I don’t know if this is a shot-for-shot REC/QUARANTINE deal or if the American version has its own spin on things. And I can’t tell you how the story affected me without essentially blowing the whole thing for those who haven’t seen it (which seems to be pretty much everybody–my wife and I had the ENTIRE theatre to ourselves when we saw it).
What I CAN tell you is that the acting is quite good (particularly in the case of Ms. Olsen) and that there are more characters about than indicated in the trailer. When a “childhood friend” nonplusses our heroine with a surprise appearance on the doorstep in the early going, I thought I had the whole thing figured out in advance… certain other characters make sure that the audience sees that they’re trying to hide something, etc. There IS some decent misdirection at work at some points of the film–certainly better than the misdirection in the obvious forerunner… ah, but I can’t say that out loud.
I can ALSO tell you that this was the wrong film for the ‘real time’ experiment. Since we’re deliberately kept in the dark as to just WHO or WHAT is terrorizing Ms. Olsen, the obligatory “stalk and flee” centerpiece, which could have been handled more expeditiously and effectively without the restraint of the device, eventually started to tax my patience. Some decent tension is built, but since we have only one person to focus on, said tension can’t sustain itself for an unbroken twenty-minute stretch (at least it seemed that long or longer) without anything definitively HAPPENING. Eventually, you get your breath of fresh air, and then you’ll want to lob a heavy object at the head of the next character who happens along when you see what that character decides to do next.
Is that reaction justified? Well, there’s the rub… you won’t know until you watch the rest of the movie, which did NOT go where I expected it to go… so for that very reason, you may well wish to check this out. As for my personal recommendation? REC was relentless. This isn’t REC, nor is it actually trying to be REC. HOWEVER, when a film promises to be similarly relentless, then “restless impatience” isn’t something it should be inspiring… no matter how it tries to justify it.