Silent House (2011)
Experience 88 minutes of real fear captured in real time.
This movie is like Cotton Eye Joe - I have no idea where it came from, nor where it go. Most movies I find either form word-of-mouth suggestions (or reviews), although occasionally I'll also just peruse the pictures of titles on Netflix as though it was the isles of a Blockbuster Video, on the prowl for a tasty audio-visual morsel. Whichever manner caused this to be added to my list, I can certainly tell you that I didn't really know what I was getting into - for better or worse. Turn off the lights and flick the play button, it's time to see just how silent your house will be.
The best kind of movie is the one where you have no idea what to expect and everything it does is just a pleasant surprise to you. The lack of expectations allows less-than stellar things to be overlooked, the lack of know-how keeps you from being stuck on small details, and everything just gets to be an entertaining experience. Sure, this backfires every now and then when you thing you have a solid flick dialed in and you see that dreaded Uwe Boll flash across the screen before you even get in the mix - but at times I'd argue it's the best way to experience a movie. This flick I didn't know about. I knew it had the current Scarlet Witch actress in it, and that it was a horror movie. Well, I don't particularly remember her from any real roles in either polarity of the spectrum so there's no fears there - and given my penchant of not being able to turn off the fact that I know a movie is a movie, I didn't expect to be sleeping with the lights on but recognized that there is a very large breadth of ways that horror could go.
Now, in all honesty this movie would have been better suited for the Quick Flick format - where I could skip over a lot of things. That said, I'll save the more potentially experience damaging things for later paragraphs so you can just skip to the final line and see if I think the movie would fit you. For now though, let's go over something that actually really impressed me while also driving me nuts - the cinematography. Now, the entire film doesn't exactly reek of having a great budget - a cast you could count on one hand, a single location, not a terrible lot of effects work - but the cinematography is a great example of being able to both do great things without a huge budget and also exemplify the downsides of it. This entire movie is presented as one long, continuous take - mind you, I'm not under the impression this entire movie was filmed in a single go - but I'll get to that in a moment.
The entire cohesive run really does give off that one uninterrupted feeling, which can really help a watcher get drawn into that tension and setting. The spots in which I assume cuts happen are maybe a little obvious if that's what you start looking for - moments when the camera is staring at a wall, floor, or door with no characters present would be a great point at which to seamlessly cut in a better take of the scene that follows if need be. Often times, the camera is also close to the actors, helping present a claustrophobic and panicked atmosphere as situations continually get worse. I really enjoyed this aspect, as you really don't get too many movies where not just one scene but the entire movie is presented as one large continual flow without wipes or fades or hard-cuts. While that's all super cool, it also carries to it a very unfortunate edge - somebody behind the camera could really have used a steady rig. It's not uncommon for shake to be used to try and obscure things - which this movie does do with it's more intense shakes, although not overused much to my content - but even more common movements have this rather obvious "camera person is taking a step" bounce to them - especially if the camera is running after a character. I feel like it's beyond "trying to immerse the watcher" at a certain point, and the idea of it trying to imply I'm there walking along with the characters doesn't feel proper with the story that's being lain down.
The movie also has a large tendency towards darkness. Some scenes play this up by making it literally pitch black with a gimmick to provide light - like a camera flash - but the vast majority of it is dimly lit at best to help reflect this dark old powerless spooky house feel - and although it works at times, there's also other times when it somewhat hinders things as you try and figure out what the heck is even going on in the smudgy background. It does wonders for enhancing the mystery element - especially when paired with the single-focus shots such as when someone picks up a bottle behind the main as she hides under a table. Since you could argue much of the movie is it's setting - essentially a run down house - the fact that it's so dark does give it a sense of foreboding character, for what it's worth.
The main characters all do a pretty good job of things. The main acts her butt off, although at moments one could argue that it perhaps doesn't always hit the mark (although as always if it's due to direction, writing, or acting is always in question). Regardless, she does a far better job of selling it than her main male counterparts - despite the fact that all three look pretty much the same age, making it a little hard to buy her father as her father. The audio comes across balanced well, and certain moments showcase the sound effects in great manners. In all honesty, I also expected a lot more jump-scares than what I got, but I guess in hindsight the focus more on drama/mystery lends itself to less jump-scares, and either way the lack of fake jumpers is always appreciable.
Now, the final thing in here you should, again, skip if you plan on watching this guy, because despite me doing my best to not dump spoilers all over this fine little thing, in the long run even if someone tells you that there's a twist in something without telling you what that twist might be you spend the entire movie looking "the twist." The plot started off seemingly like it was going to be a generic break-and-enter style home invasion movie. It starts throwing all these red herrings everywhere, making me piece together in my minds eye who the villain really is - but it also starts weaving this little story as it does it. At first, this story just lead me to place the label on one character or another, the process of proclaiming a winner being a tricky one as more and more things started coming my way - and then a moment came when a clue dropped and everything linked together and I realized I was looking at the story the wrong way. Then the symbolism started hitting really heavy handed to drive that point home.
This movie ended up being pretty good. The "one long take" was quite impressive and helped the movie feel more unique, although the hand-held shake of the camera helped make that impression a little bit more damp. The acting is pretty good and the mystery of the story took me a while to fully piece together. If you don't mind the movie feeling a bit budget-light, I'd actually put a pretty decent recommendation on it for a horror-mystery. Violence is there, although it's largely all off-screen or implied, but there are a few intense scenes with their blood effects later on. I'm glad this one got added in, regardless of how it was that I discovered it to do so.