Elizabeth Olsen took Sundance by storm in 2011, with one of the great screen debuts of recent vintage in "Marcy Martha May Marlene," as a woman trying to free herself from the psychological clutches of a cult. It was then that she also unveiled her sophomore effort, the horror film "Silent House," which is only now getting released.
"Silent House," a remake of the Uruguayan film "La Casa Muda," finds Olsen staying at the remote vacation home that she's helping her father, John (Adam Trese), and uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) prepare for sale.
The original film was billed as the first horror movie shot in one continuous take, unfolding before the viewer's eyes in real time, a nearly impossible stunt that directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau recreate.
After the brothers bicker about some new repair, Peter storms of for supplies. Suddenly, Sarah is startled by slamming doors, bumps in the night and finds herself hunted by a mysterious figure, eventually coming upon her father moaning in a pool of blood, a huge wound on his head. (Mild spoiler alert) The film clearly wants you to believe that it's Peter who's snuck back into the house to raise a ruckus, but he's such an obvious suspect that there's no way it's him.
Though "Silent House" clearly has a few moments where scenes were edited together, the action is continuous. It's an impressive bit of staging, and requires a remarkable performance from Olsen, who must wend her way through the house, hitting her marks along the way (though whoever was in charge of continuity for the blood splatter across Olsen's chest should get a stern talking-to).
Olsen is clearly a talented actress. She possesses, at rest, a California-girl halo with a '70s vibe that is knee-buckling, but as she proved in "Martha" and here, she can effortlessly convey both vulnerability and terror. She's got an innocence about her that makes her fear all the more believable. Countless actresses have paid their dues with far lesser turns in much worse horror films.
But for all the technical skill on display, none of the film's misdirections are convincing enough to make you bite. And the inevitable twist is one that's overly foreshadowed and all too familiar these days, making "Silent House" less than the sum of its parts.
"Silent House" opens in theaters everywhere this week.