Friday, October 28, 2011
The Silent House
A young woman and her father are staying at a creepy old house, which they have been hired to fix up. Her father goes to investigate some strange noises, and she hears what sounds like a struggle. Is she trapped in the house with a killer?
The gimmick of The Silent House is that it was designed to look like it was filmed all in one shot. In fact, I've read many claims online that it was done in one shot, but I'm positive I saw several masked edits. I love checking out stuff like this, but I also have to admit that it's kind of pointless. There's rarely a valid artistic reason for attempting this kind of thing, it's usually just a gimmick slapped on the cover up how unremarkable the rest of the film. Sometimes you get a nice fit of style and material, like the similarly gimmicked Rope, but not everyone has Hitchcock's technical chops or his gift for showmanship.
The Silent House is actually pretty good for a while. The house is a great location, with great set design, and that's important because 80% of this film is just a girl walking around a dark house with a lantern looking at things. The setup is suspenseful, and despite the fact that the one-shot style must have limited the filmmakers' options in terms of lighting, framing, etc, it has a little bit of atmosphere going for it, too.
I think the main thing that gets in its way is the underwhelming story, which ends up limiting the film's possibilities rather than expanding them. I would have been perfectly happy if it was just a girl in a house with a killer, with quiet scenes of her exploring the house looking for an escape route punctuated by an attack every 10 or 15 minutes. Instead, the movie runs out of steam probably not much past the half way mark, as details of what is happening are left vague because, sigh, there's a SPOILERS really predictable twist ending coming. The kind I really hate, where it pretty much negates everything that came before it. That's annoying under normal circumstances, but it's even worse here because it seems to violate the entire point of the one-shot gimmick. Presumably everything we're seeing is happening in "real time," but the ending makes it clear that much of what we were seeing wasn't happening at all.