Are Polaroid cameras still being used nowadays in a nearly completely digital society? Regardless of the answer there’s something very old fashioned about the look and feel of the American version of SILENT HOUSE. This version takes elements and moments of the original, LA CASA MUDA and spins them in a new, but not always better direction. It also still attempts to stick to a twist that I don’t feel did the original version that many favors either, but this time around might even harm the overall effect of the film in a more detrimental way.
Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) returns to her old home along with her father and her uncle to fix the place up in order to sell it. The windows are boarded up because people kept breaking in and trashing the place and the wiring within the house is shot causing the lights to not work. While working inside the house Sarah begins to hear noises, her uncle left to get supplies and her father cannot be found. So begins a series of events that Sarah cannot explain but fights for her life to get out of the house alive.
The most notable differences from LA CASA MUDA to this version of SILENT HOUSE is the ending but even more so the mood and setting of the house. I found LA CASA MUDA to be creepier and established an even more unsettling atmosphere. SILENT HOUSE is a different take on the same concept but also mimics some of the same moments from LA CASA MUDA- but as with most things in life nothing is ever quite as good as the original. Having seen LA CASA MUDA there was very little that shocked or surprised me about SILENT HOUSE- that being said there is still something to behold in the filmmaking as well as the phenomenal performance from Elizabeth Olsen.
The good aspects of the film outside of Olsen’s performance is the adherence to presenting the film as one continuous take although it isn’t and there are plenty of opportunities to insert cuts throughout. The camera work isn’t always the greatest especially when things get really shaky, but for the most part the filming kept my attention and then some. The sound design throughout while a bit overdone was also very good and enhances the spookier moments of the film. Lastly some of the more horrific images which come into play towards the end that I don’t want to spoil really added a little extra horror punch to a film I would say is mostly thriller than full blown horror. Those images also lead up to an ending that prematurely snuffs out the spark those horror elements created.
The best part of SILENT HOUSE is Elizabeth Olsen. She burst onto my radar as well as everyone else’s in MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and she continues to make a name for herself here. At first with the look of the film from the first shot I imagined that this film would make for a very interesting double feature and as the film goes on it does provide a decent sampler of her talents. In SILENT HOUSE she is asked to do little but be terrified and confused as all these crazy and unexplainable events happen around her. She’s hearing noises, seeing an intimidating figure coming after her and later on seeing a girl appear then disappear instantly. She takes just acting scared to a new level as she emerges as a scream queen to be reckoned with. She pulls off scared shitless better than a lot of actresses have in recent years. Her performance during the final moments might be the best part of the ending but is also just dynamic that comes from nowhere as far as her character goes.
The ending is the worst part of the film. I will say that the updated ending is spelled out explicitly where as in LA CASA MUDA the twist is very similar if not the exact same just with a lot less detail and one specific plot point that is never even hinted at in the updated version. The ending is better in LA CASA MUDA mostly because it’s not spelled out in detail and it is presented in a more disturbing way, however both endings I feel betray the rest of the film. I don’t want to spoil the ending so I will just say that in my eyes if we are to take the endings as they are then it makes what we watch for the rest of the film not make that much sense.
My other big complaint is that this version just didn’t feel as scary. It’s likely that I wasn’t on edge because I have seen LA CASA MUDA and was spoiled because of that experience. However, there are elements of LA CASA MUDA that created a setting that felt scarier and this version tried to recreate that setting but missed a few things in translation. My memory is a little foggy on specifics from LA CASA MUDA but I seem to remember a creepy music box of sorts that made for a really unsettling visual in the film. Both films have a scene of total darkness and the main character uses a Polaroid camera to see in the darkness one flash at a time. The scares in that scene are of the cheap scare variety but I remember jumping way more in LA CASA MUDA.
Comparing one version to another isn’t always fair so while I have talked in the favor of the original over the remake I will say that this version of SILENT HOUSE is still worth seeing. Perhaps with multiple viewings the experience would be enhanced especially to really appreciate where it tries to go at the end. As it is, despite the weak ending SILENT HOUSE is an above average thriller that benefits from the strength of Elizabeth Olsen’s performance. I speculate that the creep factor will be higher for those unfamiliar with LA CASA MUDA but there are still some decent thrills to be had for all audiences.
Need more? Check out my review of LA CASA MUDA – HERE
Review by: Luke ( @CrummyLuke on Twitter)