By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated March 09, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST
UNKNOWN FORCES Elizabeth Olsen is trapped in Silent House
Credit: Will Hart

Silent House

  • Movie

With her vulnerable beauty and expressive silences (discovered by those who saw her in Martha Marcy May Marlene), Elizabeth Olsen is just the girl to play Sarah, a frightened young woman in the ingeniously made horror movie Silent House. And from the very first, disorienting shot of her navigating slippery rocks — before she enters the titular dark house that will haunt her — we’re with her in her terrors. Then again, the very first shot is also, in its way, the very last shot, since the thrill of this particular exercise — a reimagining of a 2010 Uruguayan horror flick, La Casa Muda — is in the storytelling: The whole waking nightmare about a girl trapped in her family’s lakeside abode unfolds in real time, in one apparently unbroken shot that follows Sarah through a night of housebound hell.

A denouement more textbook than thrilling stalls some of the movie’s power. But the early chills are potent, intense. Husband-and-wife team Chris Kentis and Laura Lau previously joined forces on their superbly unsettling 2004 shark tale, Open Water. Here again the directors work with an understanding that implication is always more terrifying than visual revelation, that great sound design can make scenes in pitch blackness vivid, and that there’s nothing so nerve-rattling as sticking close to a panicked character unable to distinguish reality from her own unraveling. B+

Silent House

  • Movie
  • R
  • 88 minutes
  • Chris Kentis
  • Laura Lau