Friday, March 9, 2012

Empty Dwellings

Silent House       WWW Score: 70%

Gimmicks can be a crucial to a flick's success. Let's get real (said in my finest Dr. Phil voice), 'The Artist' would not have been as "smart" or "award-worthy" sans the "silent film" treatment. Its "boy meets girl, boy denies girl, boy gets girl" plot isn't far removed from your average rom-com. Now no one would dare compare 'Silent House' to 'The Artist' (heresy!) but they do share one thing in common - a gimmick. The wannabe frightfest is "captured in real time" - shot in one (alleged) continuous, uninterrupted take. But aside from the (attempted) stunt, the flick is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill "things-that-go-bump-in-the-middle-of-the-late-afternoon" film topped off with a seen-it-all-before twist.

Elizabeth Olsen (fresh off her mesmerizing debut in the brilliant 'Martha Marcy May Marlene') is Sarah, a college-aged gal cleaning up her family's seaside vacation home along with her father (an average at best Adam Trese) and uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens). The opening (and "only") shot starts on Sarah as she walks along the rocks by the water, making her way up to the très creepy Victorian. The place is in a state of total disrepair which (conveniently) adds to the "doomed" factor - the front door's old school skeleton key is an especially solid touch. Soon after arrival, Sarah starts to hear knocking and other bizarre sounds from inside the joint and away we go with the scares or lack thereof. In an effort to mitigate the spoiler effect, that's where the plot synopsis thankfully sadly must come to a close.

While 'Silent House' offers up some decent tension and an occasional "gotcha" moment, ultimately it's only somewhat memorable as a technical achievement rather than of any substantive manner. That said, let's clear something up, the film is clearly not "one uninterrupted take" - I counted no fewer than four editing spots (hint: keep an eye on the banister). As for the "plot", as Trish declared to Darry in 'Jeepers Creepers': "you know the part in scary movies when somebody does something really stupid, and everybody hates them for it?" - this is littered with those moments. While it will undoubtedly scare up some serious cash, 'Silent House' is a haunt you wish you lost the key to.