“Silent House,” in theory, should be a phenomenal horror film. It has all the crucial elements: It’s based on a true story, has incredibly sketchy characters and features a young heroine in a dark and spooky house. What’s more, the movie is made to look like it’s unfolding in real time through one continuous shot — amplifying the creepiness as the viewers experience the horror right alongside the heroine. Unfortunately, “Silent House” does not live up to expectations, in large part due to the film’s atrocious ending.

Silent House

At Quality 16 and Rave
Open Road

A remake of the Uruguayan film “La Casa Muda,” the film revolves around Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”), who returns to the family lakehouse to fix it up with her father, John (Adam Trese, “40 Days and 40 Nights”), and her uncle Pete (Eric Sheffer Stevens, TV’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter”). The power doesn’t work, the house is old and creaky and, of course, there’s no cell reception. When Sarah starts hearing things go bump in the dark, she begins to unravel a disturbing past that still haunts the house.

The film has two strong attributes, the first being the directing. Though much of the film’s style derives from the orginal’s, it’s still just as impactful and horrifying when used by American directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (“Open Water”). The unsteady camera movement and low lighting will give you chills lasting the majority of the movie. One scene, in which the flash of a Polaroid camera is used as an intermittent light source, stands out as being particularly powerful.

The second highlight of the film is Elizabeth Olsen, an up-and-comer who burst onto Hollywood’s radar with her truly impressive performance in “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” The camera follows Olsen for the span of the film, providing plenty of close-ups of her pretty, yet believably horror-stricken face. Her acting is the most convincing of the film, giving it a realistic element that lends to the overall unsettling atmosphere.

Unfortunately, even Olsen’s strong performance can’t save “Silent House.” The movie consists of little dialogue, mostly issued at the beginning and end. There’s also little plot — in fact, the entire middle chunk shows Sarah running around the house, scared out of her mind. But even with sparse plot and dialogue, a well-done horror film can strike fear in the hearts of its audience. “Silent House” would have done just that if the nonsense ending didn’t ruin the whole viewing experience.

It’s a shame that the last ten minutes of a film can destroy your entire perception of it, but the fact remains that “Silent House” could have been saved if Kentis and Lau stuck a little closer to the story and ending of their source material. Like most remakes of foreign films, or any films for that matter, this one corrupts the magic and brilliance found in the original.

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