Silent House (2011) is yet another example where you watch a movie thinking it will just be (in this case) a scary ghost story and find out it actually contains…incest.
Seriously, am I attracting these to myself, or is it like I have foretold; that it seems to always be a hidden little needle in a haystack of films and tv now.
Trapped inside her family’s lakeside retreat, a young woman finds she is unable to contact the outside world as events become increasingly ominous in and around the house.
I have been wanting to watch this film for a long time and finally got to it the other day. I thought it was just going to be ghost story type film or something like Paranormal Activity (which I am glad it wasn’t because I hate those films!) but it turned out to be something very unexpected!
Silent House had a lot of suspense despite its shortcomings. It gets a bit old as the majority of the film is just Elizabeth Olsen’s character (Sarah) wandering through a dark scary house thinking there is an intruder who has hurt her father John, and later her uncle Peter. Sara is staying at her dilapidated Victorian house in the countryside with her father and her uncle, helping them fix it up to resell.
There are times when it feels very Blairwitch Project. Elizabeth does a good job at being scared and crying her eyes out over the scary sounds though! The film is shot entirely with a subjective camera, always at arm’s length of the character. There is even a scene near the end common in this type of film, where the girl using a camera, snaps a series of pictures that momentarily light up the dark attic. It just feels so low budget that you feel like someone made it for a school film project or something, because of this you can’t really get too lost in the movie.
You think it is just going to turn out to be a ghost story and that the ghost is trying to tell Sarah something about how he/she died. That perhaps it was abused, and Sara’s family and home was somehow involved. That there is something supernatural going on and it is not just an intruder. There is a scene where Sarah hides under the pool table and suddenly begins having a hallucination. She sees a girl’s legs clothed in a tutu and stocking hanging over the railing of the pool table (the girl is sitting on the pool table). There are two pairs of men’s legs walking around the girl on the table. They are taking pictures of the unidentified girl sitting on the table and saying things like “see, that wasn’t too bad” and “it was a fun game.” Suddenly Sarah is snapped back to reality and sees her Uncle Peter being dragged out of the room.
Strange things start happening ever since a seen near the beginning of the film, when Sarah sees an old friend whom she doesn’t remember. She says “sometimes I think I have holes up here” as she points to her mind. After rethinking of this scene I thought maybe her friend was abused by someone in her family as near the end that friend shows up again (as she was supposed to come by to pick her up to hang out.) When Sarah runs in full panic down the stairs towards the front door, where she sees Sophia in the foyer, she tells Sophia she can’t get out. Sophia gives Sarah a key, but it doesn’t work on the front door, with Sophia commenting that the front door is not the way out.
Sarah follows Sophia into the dining room, where John lies gagged and bound to a chair. Sophia says that Sarah needs to remember what happens and plug up the holes in her memory. Sarah looks into a nearby mirror, and sees that her reflection is of the girl in the ballerina outfit!
Sophia hands Sarah a locked trinket box (that we saw at the begging of the movie) and Sarah opens it to find various polaroids inside of herself as the young girl on the pool table (the hallucination was actually a repressed memory). Sarah starts to realize that she had repressed memories of a traumatic event that had occurred in this house. The intruder enters the room, dragging a seemingly dead Peter who is bleeding from a stomach wound, but as the intruder passes Sarah, it morphs into her. Sophia explains that Sarah had done all this to her uncle and dad and tells her to finish the job, handing Sarah a knife. Sarah lashes out at Sophia instead, slashing Sophia on the hand. Sophia responds angrily, telling Sarah to stop hurting herself. Sarah looks at her hand to notice it is slashed in the same place she slashed Sophia’s hand, and when she looks up, Sophia is no longer there, nor is the young girl or the intruder.
She begins flipping through the polaroids before flinging them at her dad who is now fully conscious. The pictures show blurry images of Sarah as a young child in various compromising positions, some in the pool room and others in the basement room. Sarah straddles her dad and asks him if he would like to play with her now, or does she need to be more quiet so she doesn’t wake up her mom. She rips off the tape gagging John and forces him to drink an entire beer bottle. John tells her that she is delusional and talking to herself again and remembering things that never happened. He promises to help her with her psychosis if she will just let him go. The father talks her into untying him and he pushes her to the floor and starts beating her with his belt!
He turns around to find a semi-conscious Peter on the ground, holding the knife at him. Peter tells John to leave Sarah alone and that what they did to her was wrong. John tells him to shut up and kicks the knife out of Peter’s hand, mocking him for playing dead and saying that he always enjoyed the show.
Suddenly, Sarah says from behind that playing dead is a family secret. John turns to confront her, but Sarah begins to take the sledgehammer to him! She then begins advancing on Peter, who begins crying and apologizing for not stopping her father and says that he never meant for things to get so out of hand. She stands over Peter, but then drops the sledgehammer. Peter lays there crying, and we see a pool of blood near John’s lifeless body. Sarah walks out of the house, covered in her family’s blood, leaving the boarded up house behind.
In sum, it appears that Sarah was actually the intruder the whole time, and that similar to the film Fight Club, split her personality into the active intruder and the passive victim, and the viewer saw events from the point of view of the peaceful/victim personality (although how she could have done everything in the film herself is a mystery to me). The little spectral girl was clearly the manifestation of Sarah’s childhood self who was abused by her dad, and possibly/likely by her Uncle too.
Upon revising a few scenes again I noticed at the begging of the film there is a shot that seems to drag on forever of Sarah lighting a candle in front of the film. You then notice that the camera sort of goes into the mirror, hence revealing to the audience we will be going inside Sarah’s psyche. A similar shot happens in Secret Window with Johnny Depp.
It is harder to determine whether Sophia was a real person whose visit triggered Sarah’s repressed memories of abuse (and perhaps was abused as well) and later hallucinated by Sarah as some sort of safe harbor or was merely another physical manifestation of Sarah’s fragmented personality the entire time. I kinda had suspicions that the father and uncle were up to something because it showed the Uncle at the beginning of the film saying how “grown up” she has gotten. But I honestly didn’t think the film would go there.
Although the ending was out of left field, I liked this twist and thought it added to the film. The problem with it though was that it wasn’t executing properly and the overall storyline had too many holes in it (they aren’t just in Sarah’s brain!) It needed more too it, more flashbacks – something. After doing a bit of research on the film I found that is was actually a remake of a Spanish film of the same name and that it was based on a true story. Not sure if that movie delved into the back story more or not. All in all it was a film that could have been really great, but too many things made it feel like someone just took a camera and tried to create a movie over the weekend at their cabin!
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