Men, Women and Sledgehammers

Silent House: adapted by Laura Lau from the Uruguayan movie of the same name written by Gustavo Hernandez; directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau; starring Elizabeth Olsen (Sarah), Adam Trese (John), Eric Sheffer Stevens (Peter), Julia Taylor Ross (Sophia), Adam Barnett (Stalking Man), and haley Murphy (Little Girl) (2012): In the tradition of both Hitchcock’s Rope and the Uruguayan horror movie it remakes, Silent House was shot in a series of continuous takes that were then edited so as to look as if there were no edits at all.

The seams don’t show as much as in Rope, in which Hitchcock had to have the camera dive into a wall or door every eight minutes to hide the edit. That’s because of digital effects and the murkiness of much of this movie, most of which takes place inside a house without electrical power.

Twentysomething Sarah, her father John, and her father’s brother Peter are working to clean and repair the family cottage/lakeside house, which has been sold to new owners. Commence the escalating horrors! Is it a ghost story? A slasher movie? Could there be a twist ending?

Elizabeth Olsen, the younger and pronouncedly bustier sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley, does a pretty good job here running the emotional gamut from screaming to trying not to scream to running to hiding. She definitely looks at the handheld camera a couple of times, though, which knocks one a bit out of the film world. But this is a tough acting assignment, as the camera is either on her or looking over her shoulder for the entire movie.

Olsen does a good job overall establishing both viewer sympathy and a growing sense of unease at what she’s seeing, though given where the plot goes, a higher-cut, darker-coloured top might have been a good idea. Or not. This is a movie in part about voyeurism and objectification, which means that the amount of time the movie spends centred on Olsen’s cleavage can ultimately be read as an attempt to increase the discomfort of the viewer at the pronouncedly anti-erotic climax of the film. Recommended.

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