A Haunted House Movie Told In One Excruciating Shot

Just the idea of a horror movie made up of one continuous shot gives me the heebie jeebies. This means we, the viewers, are stuck following the protagonists as they get deeper and deeper into the story. There’s little relief at all from the suspense and it feels claustrophobic to not be able to zoom out or just pause for a moment and come up for air.

Silent House (2011) takes place all in one terrible night. The 88 minute movie plays out in real time as a young woman named Sarah, (Elizabeth Olsen), helps her dad (Adam Trese) and her uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) revisit their (haunted?) old haunting grounds: a lake house where they used to spend summers but has since fallen into disrepair. Wanting to sell the property, the family works together to clean up the dilapidated building. At night. In the dark. And it doesn’t seem like they’re alone.

Here’s the original trailer:

At the beginning of the movie, Sarah runs into a neighbor who claims the two were childhood friends, but Sarah says she doesn’t remember her. It feels like the beginning of The Strangers (2008) when someone comes to the door to ask for a person who doesn’t live there. That scene was written into the The Strangers script based on a real experience writer/director Bryan Bertino had. I had to watch a few times before I understood why this opening unsettled me so much and how it fits in with the rest of the movie. Maybe you’ll get it the first time around.

Silent House got terrible reviews from critics and horror bloggers when it came out. They HATED this movie. Reviewers raged about the film’s ending, which is actually what I found so engrossing. It’s hard to not give anything away but imo the ending doesn’t miss the mark. It hits a bullseye. I wonder if the decade since Silent House premiered at Sundance has changed public perceptions enough that the same ending that left some viewers unhappy might now feel like a welcome twist on a haunted house story.

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