Thursday, March 22, 2012

Silent House

I went to a 5:10 showing of The Silent House on a Friday afternoon in downtown Los Angeles hoping for an empty theater. I was thrilled when I entered to find I was alone. Aah, the thought of sitting all alone in the theater while watching a horror film was o-gazmic, to say the least, but I was soon disappointed when two giggling girls walked in, followed by a lovey-dovey couple who would have been better off getting a room at the nearby Figueroa Hotel. Still, I did my best to ignore them as the lights went down and The Silent House filled the screen.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the film - all I'd heard was that it was supposedly filmed in one take, in real time (like Hitchcock's Rope) and that was enough for me. I knew it ultimately wouldn't scare me since I've "seen 'em all," but I was intrigued nonetheless.

The verdict? I have to say I was pleasantly surprised although I hated the ending. Elizabeth Olsen did a great job playing the skittish daughter who's at her family's summer home with her father and uncle while they fix the place up prior to its sale. Again, not knowing what to expect, I wasn't sure if the movie was about a haunted house or if this was a case of a home invasion. I'm glad I wasn't aware of the plot prior to taking my seat because the writer purposely left this question unanswered until 3/4 of the way through the film. My favorite portion of the movie was the Polaroid sequence for its intensity (I won't reveal more than this in case you want to see it). In all fairness, I will say that the film managed to make this self-proclaimed Queen of Horror (me) jump out of my seat a few times. I love that.

Since seeing The Silent House, I've seen an interview with Elizabeth Olsen and she evaded all questions regarding the movie being shot in one take. Her answer, "Whether it was or it wasn't, the important thing is that the audience is watching the movie in 'real time' which is unique." Okay, so apparently it wasn't filmed in one take. But I've also heard that achieving the long periods of footage was extremely difficult and tiring for both cast and crew. For example, they'd shoot flawlessly for 25 minutes and then a prop guy would accidentally appear in the shot and they'd have to start over again. So, for the amount of effort to make this as true to real time as possible, I'll give them the thumbs up.

As with most American horror films these days, this is a remake of a foreign movie. La Casa Muda was the original title (Uruguay) and was one of those "based on a true story" films. After seeing The Silent House I watched the original because I wanted to compare the two to see if anything got lost in translation or, perhaps, was improved upon. I typically compare Asian horror to their American counterparts (The Grudge, The Ring, Dark Water, One Missed Call, etc.) so I wanted to do the same here.

I'm not sure if I found the original version flat in comparison to the American release because I'd already seen the American version and knew what to expect, but overall I felt that the original lacked the suspense and cohesive storytelling of its counterpart. Also filmed in "one shot," I found the cinematography bland and at one point when the sound becomes muffled (for obvious reasons that I won't disclose here for fear of spoiling the plot) all the film managed to do was become annoying. Although the denouement was different in each film, I have to say that the American version did the audience a great service in fleshing out the storyline and creating more nuances in both character development and cinematography. This time, the American remake wins my vote.

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