Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chris Kentis and Laura Lau: Silent House

Elizabeth Olsen, Silent House, Open Road Films, 2012.

The rules of the game are not surrendered while the darkness and its unknown properties eat at the edges of the frame. Shot in what appears to be one long, uninterrupted take, talented Chris Kentis and Laura Lau's Silent House is a tour de force in every sense of the word.

A remake of a popular South American horror film, Kentis and Lau transpose the material to what appears to be the grey American Northwest, but other than that, they remain faithful to the source material.

A young girl (Elizabeth Olsen) is fixing up her abandoned childhood home with her dad and uncle.  As dusk comes on, she becomes trapped inside the house with an unknown person or persons lurking in the dark. Just as that premise sounds, the film is simple and admittedly silly at times. And yet, Kentis and Lau's bravura handling of this creepily circumspect affair holds us in its grasp.

Old fashioned and unashamed of it, Silent House takes pages from Hitchcock's Rope, Polanski's Repulsion,  as well as Myrick and Sanchez's modern horror masterpiece The Blair Witch Project. Their precision is almost perverse.

Olsen, our unhinged heroine, gives a tour de force turn of her own. Fresh off of her magical triumph in Sean Durkin's powerful Martha Marcy May Marlene last year, she only confirms that she is one of the best young actresses working in America. The level of inhabitation and conviction in her fragile character dare us to move our eyes from her. Surrounded in the darkness, she screams as we scream inside, loving the old dark house movie and how genuine those old chills can be.

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