Silent House (2011): All the Subtilty of a Brick


              *HERE THERE BE SPOILERS. IF YOU DON’T WANT ANY REVEALS, WATCH THE FILM FIRST*

I only just watched the original version of this film the other day. A Spanish Uruguayan film shot on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, it had the distinction of being the first horror film to be filmed on a professional photographic camera. It was also touted as being a ‘continuous’ take film for the 88 minute duration of the movie. It has been pointed out that this is not possible as the camera has a 15 minute limit on filming.

Despite these claims and counterclaims on the continuity of the filming process, the original La Casa Muda was a brilliant little low-budget film that delivered more than adequately. Unfortunately despite an increased budget and a ‘name’ star (Elizabeth Olsen) the remake has lost a great deal in translation. The original has a subtile style while the remake is as subtile as getting hit in the face by a brick.

Directed by Chris KentisLaura Lau from a screenplay adapted from watching the original film, versus reading the screenplay, by Laura Lau this adaptation of the superior original has lost all the subtle nuances and the surprise ending of the first film.

The plots start off virtually the same. A young girl and her father are asked by her uncle to help clean the family summer home for re-sale. That is the only part of the film that stays the same. From the moment they step into the house, new elements are included in the film.

A sort of toxic (?) mold is found in the kitchen and it is assumed by the uncle and the father that it has spread throughout the house. Daddy tells Sarah (Olsen) to stay well back so that she does not breathe in any of the spores. I don’t know whether this was an attempt to introduce another plot device into the story. It did have the feel of a possible explanation of what happens next.

It was a complete waste of time.

While dad and uncle are searching for mold in the rest of the house, Sarah hears a knocking on the front door. She opens it and sees a girl of her own age on the porch. The girl is Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross) and she rushes to hug Sarah and tells her how much she has missed her. After Sarah reveals that she doesn’t really remember Sophia that well, Sophia makes a ‘date’ to come over later and reminisce.

Sarah’s uncle goes into town for more tools leaving her and dad to start cleaning the house. Sarah hears a noise upstairs and dad volunteers to investigate. Sarah joins him and they go through the first floor together. In one room there are a few Polaroid instant photographs that dad hurriedly stuffs into his pockets. When Sarah asks about them he says they are of the mold damage.

Almost from the first frame, the directors have chosen to play the child abuse and incest card. Even before the scenes where Sarah has ‘flashbacks’ to events from her childhood, they have signposts the way.

The fact that the two male figures bring in the Polaroid Instamatic instead of it being found (as in the original film) combined with all the   Polaroid photo’s lying around and that both the men can’t hide them quick enough when they have been found just screams ‘naughty’ pictures.

When we finally get to the part where Sarah starts remembering what happened to her in the house at the hands of her dad and uncle  it is absolutely no surprise. It’s been signposted way too well. In the original film it was one hell of a shock. Well, to me anyway. I did not see it coming until the character found it out herself at the end of the film.

Another major complaint with the re-make is the quality of the film. It was publicized that the re-made version was using the exact same filming equipment that was used on the original. Kudos points for them for experimenting with the digital medium. But, the new film has nowhere near the crisp quality of the original.

The film is blurry and feels so out of focus that I began to wish for glasses one third of the way in. Sure it helped to make the movie a bit more disturbing, but honestly, an elephant could have been stalking Olsen around the house and you would not have been able to see it. And I was watching a Blu-ray copy.

For all the speed that went into getting the re-make done and distributed, I really expected a better film. It was, in my honest opinion, a true waste of Elizabeth Olsen’s talent and almost an insult to the original, more superior film.

I would highly recommend seeing the original The Silent House and bypassing the remake. Unless of course you are a huge Olsen fan and you can’t bear to miss a film she’s in.

I can only despair over the amount of HD film cards that had to give their lives for this project.

English: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, with Can...
English: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, with Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens (fitted with a B+W 010 UV-Haze 58mm filter). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

12 thoughts on “Silent House (2011): All the Subtilty of a Brick”

  1. I’m glad I did not spend the movie to see “Silent House” in the theaters. It was hard to believe they filmed this movie in one continuous shot without the use of editing. A few of my co-workers from DISH are hard-core horror fans, and they said this movie was a let down. I decided I will just watch this movie with my Blockbuster @home DVD account. If it turns out to be a dud, I can always return it to the store for another movie in my queue. I may check out the original before watching this film.

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    1. Both the original and the re-make suffer a bit from overblown publicity. Neither film was a continuous take as claimed. The camera used can only film in 12 -15 minute clips. They had to edit to put the bits together! But the original is by far the best of the two!

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  2. The original is now (or at least recently was) on HBO Go so I’m definitely planning on watching soon. I’m not a fan of American remakes but glad to get the heads up that this one is not worth a viewing at all.

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  3. It’s a horror flick that’s definitely a lot better than what you would expect in today’s day and age, much ado to the technical side of it, but for some reason, the ending seems like a bit of a let-down. At least Olsen is easy on the eyes. Good review Mike.

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    1. I gotta agree with you there, Olsen does at least provide some seriously good eye candy. Unfortunately she could have been used so much better in a better part/film. Thanks for the kind words of support mate!! 🙂

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  4. I wanted to like this one and I think I wrote a generally favorable review. However, the more I look back on it the more I begin to dislike it. I do want to see the original film.Nice write up, Mike.

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      1. The fault definitely does not rest on her shoulders. That would go to Kentis and Lau for that uninspired screenplay.

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      2. I totally agree. I had my doubts when I found out that Lau wrote her screenplay after repeated viewings of the original and didn’t bother to use the original screenplay as a starting point.

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