“Silent House”, the single take, single camera home invasion film starring Elizabeth Olsen, is a frustrating and ultimately disappointing movie.
It’s unfortunate, because I went in with no expectations whatsoever, and what hopes I wound up having for the film the film built itself with its engrossing first two acts.
The third act, however, was such a let down that I (sadly) have to discount the excellent first two-thirds.
Olsen, her father and her uncle return to the family vacation home after years away. They intend to fix the house up a bit and sell it, as recently they’ve been running into issues with break-ins and squatters. Once there, however, it’s discovered that someone is in the house with them. After one of them is attacked and Olsen realizes the dangers she’s in, she discovers to her chagrin that the efforts the family has made to prevent break-ins are now obstacles to her own escape. The padlocked doors and boarded windows keep her inside the house and in danger.
During this portion of the film, the movie is very successful at preying on some of our most basic fears. Fear of the dark (the house has no electricity) and fear of not being safe in our own home. The single-camera / single-take style of the film lends a first person point of view feeling to the movie. Events occur in real-time, and the camera (though focused on Olsen mainly) puts you right in the thick of things. It’s an immersive style, and it certainly is effective at ratcheting up the tension.
Olsen is due a large share of credit, as well. Her performance is excellent here. She’s utterly believable as a young woman nearly frightened to death by the proceedings. A lesser performance would not have helped this movie in any regard… Essentially for a huge chunk of this movie she has no dialogue, and no one to play off of. It’s an extended study of a woman in fear. The camera stays with her as she hides, sneaks, struggles and runs to try to get away to safety. She presents genuine fear as she explores new, potentially unsafe areas. She’s completely credible as she tries to keep quiet and avoid screaming or breathing too loudly. If this movie hadn’t gotten an absolute home-run from its lead, it would have been practically worthless, as so much of the film is dedicated to showing her reactions and emotions as the events unfurl.
Olsen is a one woman show here, and she turns in an ovation worthy performance.
Which is why it’s so disappointing that the movie itself doesn’t. Between the engrossing camera and directorial work and the first-rate performance from Olsen, I was really invested in this movie coming down the home stretch. It was heartbreaking to watch it pull up lame. I wont spoil the end for you, but seeing as it’s such a large factor in my final assessment here, I wouldn’t feel right in not at least putting up the caution sign for you all. It’s a choice that the story makes that retroactively weaves its way back through all of the events up to that point, and ultimately undermines all the good work the film had put in previously.
I had some serious, serious issues with it, and I can’t give a film a grade on the first two-thirds alone. A movie is an entire package, and the end of this particular movie left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I can’t shake the taste.