More Reasons Stay House

There’s More Than One Reason to Stay Out of This House

Editor’s Note: Recently, The Outlook attended the Associated Collegiate Press College Journalism Convention in Seattle, WA. While there, they had the oppurtunity to see an advance screening of the suspense-thriller, Silent House, opening on March 9.

“Remember what we went through?” asks Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross), the eerie-eyed childhood playmate of Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), when she unexpectedly shows up at Sarah’s doorstep after a number of years apart.

Unfortunately, Sophia, Silent House is as forgettable as the mothballs, wicker furniture and broken folding chairs that sit untouched in corners throughout its dusty chambers.

Sarah is a blatantly bland and awkward college dropout who visits her family’s run-down lake house with her father John (Adam Trese) and Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens), two brothers who maintain their childlike and idiotic bickering left over from their younger years. John is a seemingly tender and vulnerable dad who banters effortlessly with his daughter, while Uncle Peter is slightly more reckless and juvenile, easily falling into bouts of temper tantrums with his brother.

When Uncle Peter gets in yet another stint with John and storms off into the night, he leaves Sarah and John with the daunting duty of sorting through the family keepsakes that are scattered in heaps of plastic and piles. When Sarah hears a suspicious sound, she asks that John investigate, and when he doesn’t return, Sarah sets off through the house to try and find him. Like an episode of “Hoarders” gone wrong, this sends the characters in a scramble about the house that’s filled with moldy men, suspicious photographs, and wandering children.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because this is basically the premise for every cheap-thrills horror movie ever made. The electricity is out and no one has a cell phone? How convenient! Sarah heard another noise and she’s going to check it out? What a great idea! We spend the film waiting for another shadow to appear in the foreboding darkness and for Sarah to run down the stairs again in a frenzied panic.

However, it was sort of cool to see the shots of Sarah running around taken from only a single take, courtesy of cinematographer Igor Martinovic, which made me feel like Sarah did, terrorized and hysterical. There are some interesting angles, although at times the shakes and blurs of the cameras made me feel sick. This is probably because these effects are overused and, at times, the film is lacking a set scene for the audience to actually figure out what is occurring.

These overdone takes, however, are accompanied with the subtle yet spine-chilling original music by Nathan Larson, fitting effortlessly to the shadowy scenes.

The set itself is subtle as well, thanks to set decorator Robert Covelman since the set has small eccentricities that make the movie feel more real, such as the hairraising green rabbit wallpaper and the plastic toy dinosaur. These little details make it feel like this could be your own summer home or your grandma’s home in the woods.

Olsen does a noble job as well of making audiences feel like they too could be running amok at this terrorized lake house. If you’re expecting to meet the “third” Olsen twin, get ready to forget they are even related.

Olsen easily distinguishes herself from the once-bubbly and now-gloomy twins by being perfectly seated in the middle; she is a normal person experiencing extraordinary problems. She does a superb job as the victim who finds herself in a horrific situation, completely enveloped by fear and frailty.

While the secrets lurking within Silent House are sinister and thought-provoking, the movie feels unfinished. It’s as if directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau decide to ditch the woodland home and head off to another location like the Jersey shore when things begin getting a bit too creepy for comfort.

At 85 minutes, Silent House is not short and sweet, but instead just… short. However, at the same time, I could cut this movie in half (let’s ditch some of these scenes of Olsen running back and forth and screaming maniacally) and the end result would be exactly the same. The movie is lacking depth, yet is filled with useless takes.

Perhaps contributing to its lack of depth is Silent House’s meaningless dialogue. Much of what is actually spoken takes place before any real action even occurs and has nothing to do with the plot. It is just chatty dialogue from screenwriter Laura Lau.

This film doesn’t run on dialogue or action. Instead, it runs on thoughts and interpretations, most of which remains incomplete and left to the audience to make up for themselves, which feels like a get-out-of-the-haunted- house-free card.

Silent House has pointless hiding and running (like The Strangers) and confusing psychological thrills (such as Secret Window), but just like those movies, it reminds us we all have skeletons in the closet. Sometimes even if we try to escape them, they can manage to crawl on out and haunt us until we’re sent away screaming.