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Silent House
IMDB Rating: 5.3/10 from R votes
Release: 09 Mar 2012 /

Silent House

Genre: Adventure, Drama, Horror
Director: Chris Kentis,
Stars: , , ,
Synopsis: A girl is trapped inside her family's lakeside retreat and becomes unable to contact the outside world as supernatural forces haunt the house with mysterious energy and consequences.

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Critic Reviews


If not for the filmmakers deliberately sacrificing content for supposed style, "Silent House" could have been an intelligent and disturbing horror film -- perhaps even a classic. All the elements were in place: creepy location, good actress, decent story with a few twists. But regrettably, "Open Water" directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau's decision to remake a low-budget 2010 Uruguayan film also includes its main gimmick: filming the entire movie in one (supposedly) unbroken, continuous take. And therein lies the problem.

This film, while ambitious on a technical level, demonstrates the importance of building up needed character and story elements no matter how innovative the camera work may be. In this picture, we know virtually nothing about the main character -- where she comes from, what she wants... how can we be expected to care or understand what happens to her? How are we expected to comprehend complex story revelations when half the time we can't even see the girl's face?

By emphasizing style over content, Kentis has sacrificed drama and effective storytelling. Hitchcock fared better back in 1948 with his experiment (some would say failed experiment) with extremely long takes, "Rope." Generally agreed to be one of his lesser efforts, Hitch's sole foray into real-time, single-location filmmaking worked to an extent because his characters were so well-defined and the story effectively constructed. Of course, he never made another film this way again, and for good reason: 1. audiences generally don't care how a film is made (filmmakers and critics do) and 2. the elimination of editing means stripping a film of one of its most important and creative components.

Editing is what separates movies from theater. It's an essential process that allows a filmmaker to creatively shape a story and actors' performances. Miracles can be worked in the cutting room. Scenes that don't work can be re-worked or removed. Performances can be strengthened and improved. Pacing can be improved. Suspense can be built. A director eliminating the editing phase of his film is like a sculptor hacking off one of his hands. So what at first might seem like a noble and innovative experiment in style is actually one of the most foolish and damaging things a film director can possibly do. He may believe he has achieved something significant and profound, but -- at least in this case -- the storytelling suffers greatly, and the audience pays the price: everything takes forever to happen. A slow, mundane conversation, which could have been sped up in the cutting room, now drones on forever. A walk to find a dead body, which should have happened in mere seconds, now takes minutes as characters plod about from room to room, being careful not to lose the cameraman following behind them.

Interestingly, "Silent House" fails in all the ways "Open Water" (which might have made a better one-take, real-time movie) succeeds. "Open Water" may have looked like a home movie shot with a camcorder, but it worked. It worked because we got to know the characters, we cared about them. We wanted to find out if they would survive... and how they would survive. With "Silent House," we don't know WHO the hell the girl is, WHERE the hell she's come from, and WHAT the hell she wants! So ultimately, we really don't give a damn. Why? The director was too busy worrying about his complicated camera moves.

There may be a place for a real-time, single-shot film... but this story and screenplay was unfortunately not it.

Sorry, Chris! I certainly don't mean to be unkind -- and I would happily give your film ten stars if filmmaking was about all creative, hand-held camera-work and precise focus-pulling. But last time I checked, it wasn't.

That said, you are without question a talented and ambitious filmmaker, and I consider "Open Water" one of the most frightening and bold exercises in low-budget filmmaking EVER.

I wish you continued success, and eagerly anticipate your next cinematic endeavor.

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