Elizabeth Olsen has more acting talent than your average movie scream queen. So it’s a pleasure watching her lose her cool in “Silent House,” the new film based on the 2010 Uruguayan shocker.
The latest variation on the found footage genre demands plenty of its star, since the camera stalks our bedraggled heroine for 88 grueling minutes supposedly without a single edit.
“House” fuses a very real home invasion saga with a twisted psychological saga, and directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau of “Open Water” fame deftly juggle the competing story strains. What’s missing is the sturdy sense of reality found in the best horror movies.
Olsen stars as Sarah, a young woman preparing an old, dilapidated home for sale alongside her father (Adam Trese). The power doesn’t work, the house could have a major mold problem and Sarah’s uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) would rather fight with his brother than lend a hand.
Father and daughter carry on all the same, using flashlights and lanterns to light their way. Before any real work can begin, Sarah hears a loud noise in another part of the house and her father goes off to investigate. When he doesn’t return right away, Sarah suspects something is amiss.
“Silent House” leverages its single camera view for a loping, you-are-there intensity superior to most “Blair Witch” knock offs. There’s no artificial construct about the person behind the camera, but the format still won’t reveal much about Sarah or the rest of the modest cast of characters.
Olsen takes that disadvantage, plus a threadbare script, and insists we feel her character’s growing fear. And oh, is it palpable. “Silent House” rejects obvious gore while slowly amplifying the thrills.
Film mysteries often pile twist upon turn until the audience is left too discombobulated to process the final reel. In “Silent House,” the explanations offer sturdier rewards, but they still render the first two-thirds of the film intermittently incoherent.
The new “House” stays faithful to the source material, yet in doing so copies the film’s nagging elements. Sarah talks about Facebook one minute, then later stumbles upon Polaroid photographs that play a major, wildly improbable role in the narrative.
Olsen’s stark performance sets the tone for “Silent House,” a noble if imperfect addition to an anemic horror genre.