Directed by Chris Kentis, Laura Lau
Even before the blood stains the dusty hardwood floors, the house appears to be under siege: Rats have gnawed through the electrical wiring, toxic mold is spreading behind the basement wall, and damage done by squatters has necessitated the boarding up of every last window. Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, who meets the physical demands of the role) —helping her catalog-rugged father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) fix up the creaky place for sale—gets an early visit from a raven-haired childhood playmate who walks the porch as if it's hers. Shortly thereafter, Dad gets knocked out cold, and Sarah tries frantically to find a way out of the place—she's often shown hiding, stifling a scream of terror in the foreground, while the intruder approaches slowly behind her.
Silent House, directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (who also adapted the script), is a remake of Uruguayan Oscar submission La Casa Muda, and like that film it unfurls in real time and in one continuous take (though seam-seekers will note the brief blackout period about two-thirds of the way in). The setting neatly doubles, not unlike [Rec['s apartment complex, as structuring device—the tensest sequences being sorties into the waterfront property's remotest recesses (basement, attic, bathtub with shower curtain drawn). Some of these set pieces are suffocating in the extreme, an effect nicely enhanced by the dying light of dusk, though the marathon take eventually becomes more interesting in itself than anything else occurring on-screen. The filmmakers have gotten no better at finessing confined-space/limited-timeline character development since their last collaboration, the flotation-dread slow-burner Open Water.
It's nearly impossible to say more without "giving it away," but suffice it to say that the movie begins to resemble more and more Olsen's previous crack-up at a lake house, Martha Marcy May Marlene (also a Sundance 2011 alum), and that its title also aspires to double meaning: Families with the means may keep their skeletons in isolated second homes, rather than the proverbial closet.
Opens March 9