Elizabeth Olsen made a name for herself as all of the title roles in Martha Marcy May Marlene, which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. And she’s equally impressive in Silent House, her other starring vehicle at Sundance that year. Despite appearing in literally every single shot, however, even she can’t rescue this idiotic horror film, which boasts a hackneyed formal gimmick and builds to the most exasperating, bizarrely overused cliché that’s ever emerged in the genre.
The formal gimmick relates to my remark about “literally every single shot”—Silent House has been constructed so that it appears to unfold in one real-time, 88-minute take (though I suspect a few cuts are hidden in moments of near or complete darkness). Sarah (Olsen), her dad (Adam Trese), and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) are repairing a dilapidated old house in the middle of nowhere, and the camera relentlessly follows Sarah around as she hears strange noises, finds Dad unconscious and badly wounded (the uncle has driven to town so he can liven up the second half by reappearing) and starts being stalked and grabbed by some mostly unseen intruder.
Olsen gives it her all, and the film’s sole redeeming quality is her utterly credible portrait of how terrified a young woman would actually be in that situation. But there’s a twist at the end, and you’ve seen it before; it was moronic then, and it’s even more moronic now. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.