The advance notices have been a bit unfair to Chris Kentis and Laura Lau‘s SILENT HOUSE. They have made it impossible to experience the film’s aesthetic structure – it was ostensibly shot in real time and in a single take – as one might have without having had prior knowledge of the device.

Rather than it slowly dawning on the viewer that the camera has never cut away, one is constantly asking oneself whether the “single take” is working, whether it is more gimmick than aesthetic choice, and so on. There is some irony to this given that the reviews diligently avoid revealing this or that unnamed plot twist (but implying that there is one). In fact it is far more of a spoiler to have made such a big deal of the film’s aesthetic, which ought to have been allowed to build suspense on its own and promote identification with the central character, whom the camera follows during her nightmarish confinement in an isolated summerhouse.

I wasn’t immune to the spoiler effect, and I realize that I have just done the thing I am complaining about if this is the first you have read of this film, but I enjoyed this taut independent thriller anyway. I thought for a moment that Elizabeth Olsen may have been miscast in the lead: her protestation to a neighbor that higher education wasn’t her thing doesn’t fit with my sense of her persona. But once the nightmare began, she was completely believable and engrossing, and even that early, seemingly wrong note is given an explanation of sorts.

This is not a great film, but a decently gripping one, which made me want to track down the Uruguayan original on which it was based.

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