Watching this continuous, single-take horror thriller could be part of a Survivor test. The husband-and-wife team of Charlie Kentis and Laura Lau, who made the shark-infested “Open Water” (2004), are determined to confuse and confound, beginning with the title – because there’s nothing silent about the creaking, groaning floorboards of the isolated lake house that’s haunted by memories.
Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) spent summers there as a child and now she has returned to help her father John (Adam Trese) and Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) prepare it to be sold. We first glimpse troubled Sarah perched on rocks above the lake, wearing a miniskirt, white cotton camisole and flimsy cardigan sweater. After walking back to the dark, dilapidated house, she turns on a battery-powered lantern because the electricity is not connected. Sarah’s obviously nervous and jittery, dodging cluttered, dust-covered furniture that looks ominous. Then there’s a knock on the door as Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross), a mysterious playmate from the past, stops by on her bicycle. But Sarah doesn’t remember Sophia and is relieved when she leaves – until she realizes that something else is lurking and she’s trapped in the locked house.
Meticulously choreographed by the directors and cinematographer Igor Martinovic in one continuous shot – from scene to scene – the real-time format quickly grows tedious. Inspired by Gustavo Hernandez’ spooky Uruguayan film, “Las Casa Muda,” Chris Kentis and Laura Lau utilize Alfred Hitchcock’s popping flashbulbs from “Rear Window” and a cinematography trick from “Rope” to seamlessly disguise their edits but there’s still far too much foreshadowing.
Elizabeth Olsen (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”) is convincing as the confused, hysterical scream queen. But the same cannot be said for Adam Trese, who’s far too young to be her father, and Eric Sheffer Stevens, who’s too insincere and creepy to take seriously. And it doesn’t help that the camera peers down her décolletage as much as they do.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Silent House” is a frightfully forced 4, since the gimmick dilutes, rather than enhances the premise.