I’m super busy this weekend and I don’t have time for squat but I’m only human; I had to dash to the theater to see SILENT HOUSE. It’s not like I’m compelled to see everything, this one just looked particularly up my dark, lantern-lit alley. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ruin or give away a thing. I just wanted to pass along the harmless info that ELIZABETH OLSEN is exceptional — and deserves any and all hype — and that directors CHRIS KENTIS & LAURA LAU (of OPEN WATER fame) implement the (pretend) continuous real-time one-take element to mostly decent effect and that most importantly, this movie got me good on a couple occasions. More telling than any rusty inadequate word I could come up with is the fact that upon leaving the theater, I let out an involuntary and lamentably audible sigh of relief. Seems my lungs prefer it when I make with the breathing. I don’t mean to oversell and instigate disappointment and honestly, I had a dozen quibbles invade my head toward the end but all in all, this flick agitated my hopefully imaginary heart condition just fine.
The guy who stood up behind me felt differently. I gleaned that when he proudly exclaimed, “That’s the worst movie I ever saw!” before leaving. He’s not here to defend himself so allow me to defend him; clods can’t help being clods. It’s true, it’s a waste of time to try to change them. You’re better off trying to teach a snake to use a hula-hoop. Now everybody is of course entitled to his or her opinion but that dude wasn’t offering an opinion, he was spouting a bold-faced lie wrapped in a histrionic cliché and c’mon, what a grandstanding drama queen. I guarantee that guy has seen way worse and regularly. Anyway, the bullhorn made me realize something I hadn’t before. To get properly scared in a movie requires a certain amount of empathy. Sure we get scared because we think, “What if this happened to me?” But another, equally important part is the instinctual human reaction of concern for another person’s safety and well-being. I’m not saying “Worst movie!” guy has no feelings but I’m feeling secure in suggesting that he has limited access to them. I don’t have the resources to study or back up that theory, so let’s assume I’m right based on my hatred of loud unsolicited opinions alone.
I need to change the subject before I turn into MAX VON SYDOW in HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. That’s a side of my personality I like to keep hidden away in a drawer with my extensive CYNDI LAUPER tape collection. Once upon a time, in my old apartment building, I was on the phone with a friend of mine. I don’t remember the conversation but I’m sure it was depressing. Suddenly there was a black out and the phone went dead. I could see nothing. All of the sudden there were stomping footsteps running up and down the stairs outside my apartment. It sounded like a mob. Somebody banged on my door. Well it turned out it was nothing, just a normal explainable electrical glitch but for at least three minutes or so I was seriously freaked out. “They’re finally coming to get me!” I thought. I didn’t have time to imagine concretely who was coming for me but I vaguely assumed it was the floating guys from DARK CITY or those grimacing gentlemen from BUFFY. What got to me the most though was knowing that my entire realm of safety could be blown out like a match. SILENT HOUSE made me remember that.
This movie luxuriates and cavorts in the dark, climbing under dining room tables and grabbing at your heels. It captures that bat wing paranoia that shadows your shoulder when you’re putting your key in the front door at night expecting to be tackled by every mugger ever born. From a distance it looks like a simple structure but up close, you can see certain bricks placed in a way to throw you off balance. Way before any sledge hammer busts through any wall, there’s a scourge of psychological termites (memory lapses, nervous alibis, double edged words) making the wood soft. More swaying than anything though is ELIZABETH OLSEN’s persuasive, performance, which sweeps you into the ring of panic with its realness alone. Sadly the final act of SILENT doesn’t deliver the power punch that the build-up deserves but by that time I was fine, having already received exactly what I came for. I guess I should give loud mouth guy a break. For some people horror movies are more about the slot machine payoff. In my opinion there’s too much going on in in the darkness here to throw it all away just because you don’t like what the lights being turned on reveals. Hey, now that I think about it, loud guy was the perfect audience member right until his own final act- maybe he and the movie SILENT HOUSE are perfect together.