Seldom have I had such a thoughtful and productive conversation while sitting through a “haunted house” movie. For this I should thank my brainy friend Kaja Katamay who chose to watch it with me. Since there’s very little dialog, we were free to analyze, theorize, and hypothesize all through Silent House and not miss a word. (And no one told us to STFU!) Our observations about the characters proved uncannily accurate: I suggested that Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen, fetching younger sister of Ashley and Mary-Kate) behaved as though she’d suffered a traumatic episode, and Kaja suspected the supporting cast of treachery. Right on both counts.

Nutshell: Sarah meets up with her father, John (Adam Trese), and Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) to help fix up and hopefully flip the family summer house. Things don’t work out quite as well they do on Property Brothers, as Sarah becomes increasingly anxious while wandering through the rambling hacienda. Just so you know: the house is completely boarded up to discourage vandals. There’s no electricity. Cell phones no workee.

Directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau—who previously helmed Open Water, chose to film Silent House in real time as if it were one continuous shot. It wasn’t, but this audacious gambit definitely adds a sense of first-person urgency to the events as they unfold, especially as Sarah gets closer and closer to the heart of darkness. By the way, Elizabeth Olsen acquits herself quite well in what must have been a demanding role. As Sarah, she’s a 21st century upgrade to the Scream Queen: she’s a victim who tries ineffectually to keep her fear buried in the sub-conscious, until she has no choice but to fight back—and emerge triumphant.

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