Within the first few seconds of watching “Silent House,” I pondered whether or not I had made a horrible decision selecting the film. Utilizing the ever-popular shaky, one-take style of filming that suggests the control of a hyperactive toddler, I felt sympathy for my head and stomach. Despite my physical discomfort, its storyline and moments of panic left me somewhat satisfied.
The film features the three stereotypical elements of horror: an old house, creepy little girls, and a lack of electricity and cell phone reception. Basically, it contains all the components that lead to the characters’ inevitable downfall. Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), her father John (Adam Trese), and her uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) attempt to renovate their vandalized family retreat in order to sell it. After she hears knocks on the door, Sarah reluctantly opens it and meets a suspicious woman who claims to have been her childhood friend. Mysterious sounds soon reverberate within the house, causing Sarah and her father to investigate each room. Her father suddenly disappears, forcing Sarah to fend for herself against unknown figures who pose great harm.
Olsen’s acting actually far surpassed my expectations, as her pained expressions and trembling lips displayed a nearly genuine sense of fear. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same about Trese or Stevens; their mediocre responses to their characters’ terrifying situations would fail to convince anyone.
As far as its level of scariness, it delivers a fair amount of chills. The constant darkness and brief glimpses of apparitions created a tense, creepy atmosphere. It occasionally relies on cheap scare tactics such as John or Peter suddenly popping into the frame, but they are compensated by scenes such as when Sarah enters a bathroom and witnesses blood pouring from an opening in the wall and a little girl bathing in a bloody bathtub with empty beer bottles.
Overall, the film functions as an unexpected mixture of “The Strangers” and “Black Swan” and dwells on the fear of the unknown. Numerous questions remain unanswered until the final few minutes of the movie, causing me to establish a series of connections post-viewing. In fact, I departed the theater bewildered and unsure of my thoughts, although I did feel partially cheated by the major twist. If you appreciate a cerebral film (and motion sickness is not a problem), “Silent House” will surely elicit a few screams and intense thinking.