There are a few horrors on my must-see list. Scratch that. Every horror is on my must-see list, there are just some that I absolutely must see at the soonest possible moment. So, I catch them at noon on the Fridays they’re out. I did this with The Woman in Black and I did it again with Silent House (and you can probably bet I’ll do it for The Cabin in the Woods). Needless to say, I’ve got very high expectations of these movies, but it’s not impossible to impress me; The Woman in Black blew me away. I wish I could say the same for Silent House.
The movie is set in a lakeside cottage, where cell phone service does not reach and furthermore, the electricity and phone lines have been disconnected because Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) and her dad are packing up to sell the family vacation home. The windows are also all boarded up, so this means that in broad daylight, Sarah still needs to navigate the home with a lantern. All seems fine as the two collect their things, until Sarah’s dad is nowhere to be found. It’s all made worse when she starts to hear unexplained noises in the house. I won’t spoil what happens as things begin to escalate because that’s all part of the fun. Is it supernatural? An intruder? Something worse?
Casting Elizabeth Olsen as the lead guiding us through the terror was absolutely the best decision made in this film. She’s a brilliant actress (see: Martha Marcy May Marlene and even Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding), undoubtedly Oscar-bound, and she proves her horror chops here. Horror seems a tough genre for acting to me. Either that or it’s so undervalued that not enough great actors try out for roles and we’re left with over-dramatic shrieking women who seem to have barely memorized their lines. Of course, that’s totally a generalization. Olsen is completely convincing. Her sheer tear-inducing terror will get you shaking your boots (or at least have you in fearful, agonizing anticipation of what’s about to happen next). The horror of this movie also stems from the dark house in its utter seclusion, where lanterns cast deep unknown shadows within and creaks are amplified.
The directing is also interesting. It plays with depth of field throughout, which you might love, might hate or might be unaffected by, though you’ll definitely notice it.
Great casting, perfect setting and creative directing, but why is it so incomparable to The Woman in Black? The story. I’ll try not to spoil it, but here’s fair warning that you’ll know more soon than you know right now. I feel completely cheated by the ending. Throughout, the story is told fairly well and you become invested in the outcome. There were several ways it could have all unfolded and I feel they’ve chosen the laziest way of all. I hope that if you do see this movie, you’ll disagree, because the ending aside, it could have been a whole lot better. B-
Starring Elizabeth Olsen. Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. 85 minutes. 14A