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Sundance 2011: 'Silent House' serves up scares at midnight

January 21, 2011 | 10:02 am

The midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival has yielded some of the most successful scare stories in independent film history — “The Blair Witch Project” and “Saw” top the list. Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, the directors of “Open Water,” a midnight hit from 2004’s festival, have returned to Park City, Utah, in the hopes they might have the next big Sundance fright flick.

“Silent House” debuted in the wee hours of Friday to a packed audience of media and buyer representatives (it has its first public screening Friday afternoon). Quickly adapted from the Uruguayan thriller “La Casa Muda,” which premiered last May at the Cannes Film Festival, “Silent House” stars Elizabeth Olsen (part of the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen clan) as Sarah, a young woman helping her father pack up a house to prepare it for a sale.

The house is mostly boarded up and has no electricity, and for reasons that only make sense in such a film, the one door to the outside is locked.  Sarah at first starts hearing strange bumps and footsteps in the house and before long, things get ugly.

Kentis and Lau certainly created a lot of suspense with “Open Water” — the story of two scuba divers accidentally abandoned in shark-infested waters by a preoccupied dive captain — and “Silent House” builds its scares steadily and relentlessly. In mirroring the style of “La Casa Muda,” the thriller is presented as one single film take — there are no discernible cuts.

Could “Silent House” spark a big sale and be on its way to a theater near you soon? The audience was certainly on the edge of its seat, and who doesn’t like a good scare?

-- John Horn

Photo: A scene from "Silent House," courtesy Sundance Film Festival

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