It’s been almost a day since I saw Silent House and I’m still not sure what to think.
I didn’t particularly like it, that’s for sure. But I didn’t hate it either. And I have been thinking about it since it ended, so that has to say something.
The plot is razor thin – a girl, her father, and her uncle are at an old family house, fixing it up for future sale. The house has fallen into disrepair; the windows were all broken by vandals so they’re boarded up, there’s no electricity so everyone needs to use lanterns and flashlights, and a leak from the roof has caused mold to grow deep in the walls of the house.
Everything starts out fairly prosaic, with a hint of something lurking in the shadows just waiting to explode out. The girl, Sarah, played by Elizabeth Olsen is hanging out on the porch and meets up with this other girl, Sophia, who seems to remember her from their childhood. Sarah and Sophia played dress-up together, even though Sarah doesn’t really remember it too well. They make plans to hang out later and Sarah goes back inside.
The uncle heads out to buy supplies, leaving Sarah and her father alone in the house. She thinks she hears something upstairs, but when she makes her father investigate, there’s nothing and he chastises her for not packing up her stuff. As she sifts through her childhood belongings, she hears another loud noise and a thump, and it all begins.
What follows goes on for too long. It has moments of tension, mostly due to Elizabeth Olsen’s intense performance. Her silent screams are done exceedingly well. But those moments are in between drawn out runs around the house in the dark and it can become tedious. Which is too bad because the directors also produced Open Water which kept up the tension throughout the film without resorting to any tricks.
Even when Sarah manages to escape the house at one point, the plot maneuvers her back in…I suppose because otherwise there would have been no movie.
There is a bit of a twist ending, which isn’t a huge twist if you’ve been paying attention throughout the film. It’s heavy on symbolism – the locked house, the shuttered windows and doors, the locks that won’t open, the mold…once everything is revealed you feel like you’ve been hit over the head. Even the movie’s title is a nod to the ending. I won’t even get started with the Polaroid shots.
Everything unravels as its revealed and you feel cheated. One of my biggest issues with Silent House is that it’s two totally different movies smashed together but not as successfully as the directors must have felt. We are all used to films that have twists and unseen plot turns, but the movie has to earn them and we as the audience have to feel both surprised and gratified by the surprises. The characters have to be rooted somewhere real and the overall plot has to follow its own logic. Failing on both accounts to varying degrees, Silent House just doesn’t earn its own ending.
I guess I do know what to think — not much.