With the news that Mary-Kate Olsen has said yes to her much older boyfriend’s marriage proposal it seems apparent that the other half of the Olsen twins may have daddy issues. Of course, Ashley herself is dating a man who is 20 years older than her so perhaps both girls have the same fixation. Both mega rich actresses and fashion designers are 27 years-old.
In 2003 Chan-wook Park released his second in the “vengeance trilogy” Oldboy to overall positive reviews and it became a cult favorite as well as an almost instant classic film and Spike Lee opted to remake the film in 2013 with an end result that is a letdown to say the least. As the film is due for release on Blu-ray March 4 this year, it seems appropriate to take a look at both films and see why Lee’s vision doesn’t really work and why Park’s satisfies all the parts that the new film cannot reach. Being kind, it can be said that in terms of casting; Lee hit pay dirt. In this respect he matches Park’s cast very well…
*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 Kentis, Laura 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.
We watched this the other night out of curiosity. The film itself is a bit of a ‘one-off’ in that the director and producers claim that the film was made in a continuous take of 88 minutes. However if you look at the equipment that they used, a Canon EOS 5D Mark II which can only film up to fifteen minutes of continuous footage, it does bring a bit of doubt to the producers veracity. I’m not doubting the producers intent though. Like most digital photographic cameras, there are ways to bypass the 15 minute limitation, not least of which is just having enough memory cards or disks to pop in after you’ve filled up the current one.
I have noticed a certain amount of snobbery and downright aggression against the ‘continuous’ claim and I can’t really understand it. The film is the first ‘horror film‘ to use a professional photographic camera to shoot the entire movie and despite claims and counter claims to the contrary, is the first to use a continuous take approach. All this means is that the film has a ‘real-time’ feel to it and that this enhances the tension we, the audience, feel while watching it.
Considering that the films total budget was in the region of seven thousand dollars, this is not a film to be scoffed at. It delivers well enough and the effects, though minimal, work well enough. In fact the film delivers well enough that before the digital dust had settled on it’s world premier, a Hollywood re-make with Elizabeth Olsen was in the works. So the film makers must have done something right.
Directed by Gustavo Hernández (who also co-wrote the screenplay with Oscar Estévez and Gustavo Rojo) The Silent House is based upon ‘true events that occurred in Uruguay in the 1940’s. If you Google this long enough, you’ll eventually find an oblique reference to the discovery of two horribly mutilated corpses that were found in a semi-derelict house in the country. That’s all you will find. Still it was this story that provided the kernel of the film and it’s plot.
The film has a cosy feel to it cast wise as there are only really three players in the film. Florencia Colucci as Laura, Gustavo Alonso as Wilson (Laura’s pop) and Abel Tripaldi as Nestor. There is another actor in the film, but as they only show up briefly towards the end, I don’t really count them as part of the main cast.
Nestor has employed Wilson and Laura to ‘clear up’ an old farmhouse that he owns. He wants to sell the old place but realizes his chances of doing so are pretty poor with the property in its current state. He shows Wilson and Laura what he wants done and before he leaves he tells the both of them to stay on the ground floor. The top floor of the two story property is unsafe with loose tiles and floorboards.
As it is quite late in the day, Wilson and Laura decide to sleep before starting their work in the morning. Literally seconds after Wilson enters the land of Nod, Laura begins to hear noises from the floor above them. After finally waking Wilson, who appears to have the ability to sleep through a major world war, Laura tells him that someone has entered the house and is moving around the top floor. He agrees to investigate, but before he goes he tells Laura that he expects her to be asleep when he returns.
As he heads up the stairs, Laura waits anxiously. We hear a scream and a thud and it appears that Wilson has encountered something bad. The film then spends a good portion of time building suspense and throwing in the odd ‘timely’ scare.
I won’t lie to you here. I don’t really see what was so great about the film that it warranted an almost instantaneous Hollywood re-make. On a scale of movie making where a score of 1 equals unimaginative and 10 equals revolutionary breathtaking originality. I’d have to place The Silent House around the region of 6 or maybe at a push 7.
Of course I don’t make films for a living, I just enjoy watching them and then talking about them. Perhaps the producers of the re-make (already out there by the way re-titled somewhat imaginatively as Silent House) saw what having a larger budget and a better known cast could do with this interesting little film. Who knows?
Still just in the area of the new digital trend in the movie making business the film hits a few resounding notes. The entire film was (regardless of whether it was done in continuous takes or not) shot with a professional photographic camera. It was shot as continuous as possible (taking into account the technical restraints of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II) and it did so on a budget so small that the phrase ‘shoestring’ budget seems almost too grandiose a term.
I would recommend seeing it, especially if you haven’t seen the re-make yet. It is always interesting to see the original films before Hollywood gets hold of them and ‘jazzes them up.’ It is also worth a look just by benefit of budget alone. When someone can make a movie for less than it costs to buy a used car, that sort of ingenuity is worth a look or two.
Add into this already heady mix, the more ‘recent’ dependable actors in the guise of Cillian Murphy, Elizabeth Olsen and Toby Jones and you have a vehicle that just smacks of success. The “Readers Digest” version of the plot is as follows:
Dr Matheson (Weaver) is a psychologist who is also a veteran paranormal “debunker.” She works with her assistant Dr Buckley (Murphy) who is a physicist. The beginning of the film sees the two “debunking” a typical haunting. That the two are fond of each other is apparent; these two are not just colleagues, they are friends.
After they finish, Matheson asks Buckley to drop her off at the hospital to see her comatose son, who is hooked up to a life support machine.
We next see the two presenting a class to university students. They are “teaching” them how to ‘fake’ a seance. We are introduced very briefly to Sally Owen (Olsen) who after the class approaches Dr Buckley to turn in an assignment. She clearly likes him and they go out to a diner. Buckley explains to Sally about “red lights” which are the subtle tricks that fraudsters use to fool the gullible.
Enter Simon Silver (De Niro) a blind older version of Uri Geller. He can bend spoons, practice telepathy and apparently can levitate. He is making his first public appearance in over thirty years. He ‘retired’ when one of his most fervent denouncers dramatically had a heart attack and died during Silver’s last public appearance.
Buckley wants to immediately investigate Silver and prove that he is a fraud. Dr Matheson urges Buckley to leave it alone. She had faced Silver thirty years ago and she maintains that he is too powerful to be touched. She also reveals that when she had gone up against Silver before, her young son suddenly toppled over and he has never regained conciousness.
Buckley ignores Matheson’s warning and starts investigating Silver anyway.
The build up of suspense in this film was brilliant. It played more like a mystery/thriller for three quarters of the film. The characters of Matheson and Buckley and Owen were drawn so well that we immediately felt a connection with them. In essence before the first twenty minutes of the film we found that we liked them and cared about what they were doing.
I was a little disappointed that Joely Richardson did not have more to do. She played Silver’s manager/agent and she came across as malevolent and not a little scary. De Niro did what he does best. He dominates the screen with his presence alone. He is still capable of catching our attention without saying a word.
Elizabeth Olsen gave a very sturdy performance as Buckley’s love interest/partner in crime. Cillian Murphy was the stand-out performance in this film. He has come a long way since 28 Days Later and Inception.
IMDb gives Red Lights a 6.6 out of 10. I would rate it higher just for the high quality of the acting and for the well woven plot. It is one of those films that you should see at least twice to catch every nuance the film has to offer. Just like the “red lights” mentioned by Buckley, the film will mislead you and trick you.
Despite the mediocre and misleading marketing of the film, it is worth the price of admission and splashing out for a bag of popcorn and a coke.