PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 16, 2012

Camera trickery can’t save mediocre horror flick

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— The new horror movie, “Silent House” is notable because the whole thing is shot with what feels like one single camera shot. It’s an impressive feat of technical virtuosity, but it’s also a gimmick, and one that doesn’t really add anything to the experience of watching this fright flick. Take away that camera trick you’re left with a pretty good performance by Elizabeth Olsen but also a mediocre film filled with manipulated scares and shaky camera overload.

Based on the Uruguayan chiller of the same name, “Silent House” is the story about a young woman who’s helping her family fix up their summer house so that they can sell it. Things take an ominous turn when her dad (Adam Trese) and Uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) disappear, leaving Sarah (Olsen) alone in the house. She realizes that there’s somebody out there stalking her.

Olsen turns in another pretty good performance, making Sarah into more than just a character who screams and runs away from the danger. She doesn’t have to resort to grand physical theatrics, preferring to use her enigmatic face to subtly convey her character’s emotions. It’s an effective and nuanced performance, which is a pleasant surprise for a low budget horror film. Who’d have thought that the Olsen twins’ little sister would grow up to be the most capable actor in the family.

Directed by the husband and wife team of Kris Kentis and Laura Lau, “Silent House” starts off very well. The tension of the film’s first hour will have you on the edge of your seat. The last half hour doesn’t work nearly as well. It features a predictable twist and a dumb ending that destroys everything that the film had been building up to.

The hand-held camera is also quite annoying. Beyond leaving the audience somewhat nauseated by the camera that never settles down, the filmmakers also miss crucial moments because the cinematography always seems to be trying to catch up with what’s happening in the film. There’s a reason why filmmakers take the time to set up their shots and use editing to really tell the story. The abandon this basic principal of filmmaking so that they can claim the gimmick, but it’s a marketing move that diminishes the film’s power, making “Silent House” into an interesting, but ultimately mediocre chiller.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.