Silence Is Not Golden

The Silent House (film)

The Silent House (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Silent House is a remake of a La Casa Muda, which is Spanish for The House of Mud.  I kid!  Directed by Chris Kentis and Laura Lau of Open Water fame (which I did rather enjoy).

Wow.  Monstrously awful.  And definitely not in the way you wanted it to be.

I will say that Elizabeth Olsen did a decent to better than decent job.  However, she was hampered by the two male costars, particularly the feller playing her father.

There were moments when I almost convinced myself that his wooden character and stilted line readings were actually somehow part of the plan.  If so, it was a plan destined for failure.  Sadly, I very much doubt that it was the result of anything other than a less than stellar performance.

The story itself trips and falls over itself during the first act.  This was definitely the plan.  At least, the part where the creators try to make an edgy film that doesn’t explain what is going on.  This is a wonderful thing when a film is crafted with great thought and even greater attention to the elements that make such a film wonderful to watch.

Instead we get a lot of nonsense and everything I suspected turns out to be true even though I really hoped it wasn’t.

Visually, the film is shown in muted hues that are so prevalent these days.  It didn’t really add anything to the aura of the film itself, but I did notice it.  There is also one of those horrifically annoying bouncing cameras as our heroine makes a desperate run through a field.  Again, it added nothing to the tension of the scene, because there really wasn’t any.  I knew, as all of you surely would, that she wasn’t going anywhere.

Each little episode telegraphs itself.  Seemingly to give attentive viewers something to grasp onto as they unwrap the mystery.  All it did was make me groan repeatedly.

Take, for instance, the use of a Polaroid camera.  I imagine this was all part of an absurd attempt to muddy the timeframe of the movie.  To try to create a little timelessness, perhaps.  To confuse the viewer.  Except for the appearance of a Jeep Cherokee that isn’t nearly old enough to jive.  It is an obvious plot point.  And an obvious problem.

I own a Polaroid camera.  It’s insanely difficult to get ahold of film for it and when you do, it isn’t cheap.  You do not waste that film taking pictures of your shitty old house’s water damage for the insurance company.

Now, I can plausibly imagine any number of scenarios that make the appearance of this camera seem reasonable.  However, it is very much the tie that binds.  The loose string that wends from the past into the future.  As such, my scenarios would still seem rather foolish.

Essentially, I was just watching the thing play itself out.  Just the tiniest bit of me hoping that it would twist into something unique.

It was interesting, in a weird way.  As I pondered these obvious cues, I found myself desperately trying to create the story that is meant to fool us, instead of the story I knew lurked underneath.

It was, after all, an all too familiar story.  A family story.  With a jumpy daughter; an angry, uncommunicative and obviously controlling father (showing a similar relationship with his younger brother); and a hidden story in the old family home that they had left long ago.  Our heroine, you see, doesn’t really remember much of those days.

I’m sure you can gather where this is heading.

The real travesty is the dialogue.  Particularly between the brothers.  I have two of my own, and while I know those relationship are not all peaches and cream, this pair made me want to give up on the movie.

The dialogue was unnatural.  Delivered so matter-of-factly, that it resembled a cold reading at times.  Like reading off a list.  Have you ever seen someone at a podium in front of a slide show reading all the bullet points verbatim without ever adding anything at all that wasn’t in the paper stack of slides sitting in front of you?  That kind of thing makes a bad presentation.  It makes an even worse movie.

There are other concerns.  I don’t have the energy or desire to detail them all.  It would be pointless.  I think my point has already been made.

I’ll grant you that, once I determined what the film was going to be about, I had a little rush of rage.  You see, this would turn out to be the fourth film in about the last week that I’ve seen with a similar theme.  What could best be described as “Daddy issues”.  Not all of them are exactly the same, but I smell a trend.

And what should appear in my inbox on the fateful day that I sat and watched this farce?

It is no coincidence.

This email correspondence is supposedly offering folks helpful insights into screenwriting.  I’m sure it is.  Just not necessarily the ones we viewers hope that future Hollywood screenwriters are using to create magic onscreen.

I’m not sure how you tout creativity on one hand, yet insist that all successful scripts follow a certain pattern.

I am just now gearing up for a novel-writing month (Camp Nanowrimo) and I know from past experience that I don’t want the results to follow any hidden code but the one I put in there.  I certainly don’t want the resultant novel to follow an unmistakable pattern found in the most successful novels.  I’m sure you don’t want that either.  Have you seen what the most successful novels look like.  Egads!

I’ll have to check out the original version.  I’m sure it will make me feel better.

About I.M. Pangs

digital verbal smog creator
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