“The silence will kill you!” warn the posters for Silent House. That’s only if the boredom doesn’t get you first, though. The hook of this would-be horror picture (a remake of the 2010 Uruguayan chiller La casa muda) is that it unfolds in real time, all in one single, uninterrupted shot. The intent is to make you share every second of the increasing terror Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) suffers when she goes to help her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer) clean up the family home and strange things start to happen.
In their previous film Open Water, the husband-and-wife directing team of Chris Kentis and Laura Lau managed to terrify you simply by showing two people stranded at sea, floating in shark-infested waters. They would seem to be a perfect fit for Silent House, which resembles The Woman in Black with its reliance on sudden noises and sounds for frights. But the filmmakers have concentrated too much on technique, at the expense of their story. Even at a brief 88 minutes, the movie feels horribly stretched out and padded.
There’s a good scene early on in which Sarah reconnects with a childhood friend (Julia Taylor Ross) who feels slightly off — there’s something not quite right about the girl — but it’s followed by an hour’s worth of Olsen looking terrified, breathing heavily and shrieking at noises while she’s followed by a wobbly, handheld camera. I should point out that practically nothing actually happens during all that time.
Silent House does seem to be comprised of a single shot, although any mid-year film school student will be able to spot the edits where the filmmakers cheated. The cuts just aren’t as obvious as they were in 1948’s Rope, which Alfred Hitchcock famously shot in 10 long takes. But that movie, while far from Hitchcock’s best, still managed to pull you in, like a good page-turner. All Silent House does is make you search the screen for its seams, like kids search for Waldo, until the story reaches its ludicrous finale, which makes less than zero sense.
Cast: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer, Julia Taylor Ross.
Directors: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau.
Screenwriter: Laura Lau.
Producers: Laura Lau, Agnes Mentre.
An Open Road Films release. Running time: 88 minutes. Vulgar language, violence, gore, adult themes. Opens Friday March 9 at area theaters.
Follow Miami Herald movie critic Rene Rodriguez on Twitter at @ReneMiamIHerald.