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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Daddy's Girl

Silent House

Plot Overview

“Silent House” opens with a crane shot of a woman on a drift­wood island in a lake. She gets up and care­fully picks her way, balancing on the stones, leaping a gap, working back to the shore. On her level now we watch her walk along, hand brushing the vegetation, until a car stops and a man gets out. “Hey, sweetie,” he calls. “Hey, daddy,” she replies. Birds chirp in the back­ground. He recounts his foray to an Inter­net café. Lots of e-mails for him but no real friends. “What's-his-name wrote on your wall again,” he tells her. “Wants to get back together.” Looks like she's on the outs with an ex. But they have each other. She's a daddy's girl, helping him fix up their family's dilapidated old summer house that they're wanting to sell. Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) and Sarah's father John (Adam Trese) are joined by John's younger brother, Sarah's Uncle Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens) in the task. Peter comments on how Sarah has blossomed since last he saw her.

Inside the cluttered house we spot a roll of duct tape lying there on the table, … the first inkling that this is other than a home-improve­ment movie. Also infesting the house is: mold, rats, and squat­ters—that the police ran off. As long as we're ticking off bad omens, we may as well note that scum, rats & tramps are all epithets for people of the lower class. I don't see any other women around; maybe that's why it's called silent house. One exception is a neighbor girl Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross) who drops by to see her child­hood friend. These two women appear to be in their early 20s now. They used to play dress up and do make-overs. Maybe that accounts for their party-like attire, border­line immodest, instead of work duds. Might also make them a magnet for the evil-intentioned.

They are isolated with no phone to call the police with. Furthermore, with the house all boarded up, it would be easy to find them­selves trapped in it unable to exit. When they become separated and an evil presence seems to be at work, we follow Sarah through a labyrinth on the verge of panic. Only we don't have that God's-eye view any­more, to see the big picture, just shadows and fragments as we sit on the edge of our seats waiting for the axe to fall.


The two brothers are named after the apostles Peter and John, the daughter/niece after father Abraham's righteous wife Sarah. Hearing such godly names, I was some­what taken aback when they used God's and Jesus's name as swear words. They don't do any other swearing, though, not even in argument, so I pass it off as a character defect. Peter was the chief apostle—at least some regard him so—and this Peter bosses his brother John around, and his daughter Sarah for that matter, so the names are being used consistently.

Our Sarah was named after Abraham's wife, and Abe himself had a lapse when, (Gen. 20:2) “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.” The reason given for allowing his wife to be abused, is (Gen. 20:11) “And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.” We've already seen intimated that who- or what­ever is in this place are low­lifes, sans the fear of God, and that the brothers don't fear God either for using His Name in vain. Are Sarah's protectors going to be slain so she can be abused? or will the protectors them­selves abdicate their protection? Two figurines on a shelf get panned (twice!): a pig and a dinosaur. The ancient story of Abraham above illustrates an instance of man being a pig. Scary encounters are being tele­graphed before we hear the first mysterious bump.

That leaves Sophia's name that means wisdom. The very opening of a sky-based shot coming down to the water and then the land is rem­in­is­cent of wisdom being intro­duced in the Apocryphal book, the Wisdom of Sirach: (Sirach 24:1-6)

Wisdom shall praise herself, and shall glory in the midst of her people. In the congregation of the Most High shall she open her mouth, and triumph before his power. I came out of the mouth of the most High, and covered the earth as a cloud. I dwelt in high places, and my throne is in a cloudy pillar. I alone compassed the circuit of heaven, and walked in the bottom of the deep. In the waves of the sea and in all the earth, and in every people and nation, I got a possession.

When Sophia greets Sarah with a hug, it's like the closeness with which we're supposed to hold wisdom, (Prov. 7:4) “Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call under­standing thy kins­woman.” All of Sophia's sage advice to Sarah is spot on, encouraging the latter to better under­stand her­self:

“I really do remember you,” Sarah says.

“How could you forget?” replies Sophia.

Sophia as Wisdom–personified introduces a subtext of self-discovery, that Sarah will better under­stand her­self and come to terms with her life for what she is about to experience, as per (Prov. 19:8) “He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth under­standing shall find good.”

Production Values

“Silent House” (2011) is a remake of the 2010 Spanish-language low-budget Uruguayan horror film ‘La Casa Muda’. It was directed by the husband and wife team of Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. Laura Lau also wrote its screenplay (Gustavo Hernández wrote it for “La Casa Muda.”) Origin­ally it was written for a two-story house, but they lucked out and found a three-story one and adapted the script. That third story is a killer! They were fortunate to find their lake­side house near an actual lake. And the day they rented the crane for—they had to bring it down from Canada to get one tall enough—the tide was just right.

This film was shot as several long takes spliced together to simulate one single long take. The many formid­able chal­lenges were admirably over­come: The guy on the crane had to get off it while shooting and follow the girl into the house, changing filters to accom­modate the change in lighting from late after­noon to a darkened house. He had to follow her all around with the camera, backing up stairs with some­one leading him, to get her face ascending. Sarah's panicked run around the grounds was followed on a camera held by a practitioner of parkour, and he was good! They used a narrow focus to capture Sarah's features, which meant that a lot of the back­ground was necessarily fuzzy.

For all the technical achievement of this approach, it lacked the perfection of in-house editing from a plethora of smaller takes. There are reasons why nobody shoots films this way, except for the daring like Alfred Hitch­cock with “Rope.” I believe the directors were justified in their one-take approach, and it has to do with the plot. Sarah in her early 20s did not have a boy­friend, let alone any wedding plans. She didn't have a job (except to help her dad.) And she isn't pursuing an education. All her cousins are off pursuing their life goals; that's why they aren't there to help. Sarah is about as late getting into her adult mode as she was cleaning out her room of the trash her dad got on her case about. The single long take is a subtext saying her life is one organic whole, from little girl to young adult now, and it's about time she lines up as a whole person to get beyond being a daddy's girl.

This movie stars Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, and Julia Taylor Ross. They all looked the parts and held their own acting-wise. Elizabeth Olsen did an out­standing job of holding onto her tension through any necessary lengthy retakes that weren't even her fault but technical glitches like a missed lighting cue.

The movie is 86 min. long. It was filmed in New York, USA. It's rated R for disturbing violent content and terror. The music by Nathan Larson used a light touch in the isolated locale. Cinema­tog­rapher Igor Martinovic was master of the curious camera.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

You don't want to leave before the end, because there's a lot of revelation packed into that last minute. Don't take the previews as a straight­for­ward summary. They piece those together for audience appeal. I mean, if one were to selectively take scenes, it could be made to look like a home-improve­ment film, even. The movie proper is honest in what it portrays. I like all kinds of movies, so I could appreciate where this one took me even though I was groping in the dark with every­one else for most of it. I think it's a real achievement, although it may disappoint some­one who wants to be satisfied with cheap thrill drivel. It also helps if you're a student of the Proverbs.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Well done action flick. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Special effects sparcely employed. Video Occasion: Good for Groups. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five (for technical excellence).