Friday, March 09, 2012

Silent House: Indie Darling Turns Scream Queen

The multiplex kids probably have never seen Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (let alone Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark), so the supposed single continuous “real-time” tracking shot making up the latest indyish-genre outing from Open Water co-directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau might seem like a fresh gimmick to them. Remaking the recent Uruguayan horror movie (including the aforementioned uninterrupted take), they show fewer seams than Hitchcock but more distracting narrative issues come to the fore in their remake, Silent House (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Sarah’s family had some good times in their lake house, but vandals and weather damage have taken a toll. Her father and Uncle Peter are trying to restore it, but their bickering makes the going slow. It looks peaceful outside, but with the windows boarded up and the power kaput, the house is pitch dark inside, even during high noon. It would be a scary place to be locked in with a psycho killer, which will be the case for Sarah. After she establishes the lack of phone lines and cell service with an old childhood chum she cannot remember, her menacing begins.

When it comes to the mechanics of skulking about the old dark house, Silent is more than competent. However, when it drops its clues, they clang like anvils. Frankly, anyone who isn’t on to the big twist by the half hour mark must be remarkably guileless, even if they have not seen the Uruguayan original. Unfortunately, this makes it devilishly difficult to buy into Silent as a funhouse ride. Instead, viewers will more likely feel as if they are watching the film play out the string.

Still the toast of the indie circuit for her work in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth Olsen handles the screen queen duties rather capably. There is actually more to Sarah than the typical teens chased through slasher movies, which Olsen evokes quite convincingly. However, Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens are just glaringly miscast as Papa John and Uncle Peter respectively, looking more like aging hipsters on a photo shoot for Restoration Hardware than adults with any kind of connection to the real world.

Ironically, the one take device is the least distracting aspect of the film. Indeed, the filmmakers should avoid the game of poker, because they display all kinds of “tells.” As a result, the creepy vibe and some nice work from Olsen, duly framed to maximize viewer leering, largely go to waste. For the curious, Silent House opens today in New York at several theaters, including the Regal Union Square.