Silent House

Fri, May 4, 2012, 01:00

Directed by Chris Kentis, Laura Lau. Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett 16 cert, general release, 80 mins

LA CASA MUDA – a no-fi 2010 Uruguayan horror – had a nifty enough sales pitch to warrant a place at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and get snapped up for an English-language remake.

The blurb says: “presented in real time”, in one, ahem, “continuous 78-minute take”. The seasoned genre viewer says: it wanted to be Rope but, crucially, was not directed by Alfred Hitchcock and thus fell apart halfway through.

These flaws have been preserved and compounded by an all-American cover version from the directors of the hit shark attack flick, Open Water (2003).

Tensions soon mount when Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Sheffer Stevens) meet up at a family holiday cottage to clean up the old place before it’s sold. Somehow, the family members are separated just as the lights go down.

Ms Olsen, fresh from her traumas in Martha Marcy May Marlene, turns scream queen as she is assailed by an unseen spectre and suppressed memories. She’s rather better than some of her co-stars and far too good for the dwindling scares of acts two and three.

Film-makers Lau and Kentis seem to lose their collective mojo 20 minutes in and we’re left watching a mostly dark screen and listening to a great deal of random panting and gasping. Hark! Is that Elizabeth Olsen or an asthmatic beagle? Never mind the edits and joins. The faked continuous take – actually shot in eight 10-minute segments – would be a lot more impressive if we could see anything at all.

As with the Spanish-language original, Silent House has a twist, albeit a signposted one, but no plot; it has suspense, but nowhere to go. There’s an additional problem in the translation: it’s a whole lot easier to believe in ghosts and supernatural agents when a film is presented in a language that’s synonymous with magic realism.

Unsurprisingly, movie punters have loathed the murky results: Silent House, following in the lowly footsteps of The Devil Inside, is only the second picture of 2012 to receive an “F” grade from CinemaScore exit polls.