Saturday, 15 September 2012

Remade in the USA: Silent House

The lazy journalist will cite Psycho 1960 as a horror film. His inept colleague will describe it as ‘the first slasher’1. Psycho is not a horror film. It can be touted as a psychological thriller à la The Silence of the Lambs 1991 but it is best described as a psychological drama à la Blue Velvet 1985. The best definition for the movie is ‘an Alfred Hitchcock film’2 however the best subtitle for the movie is ‘the harbinger of modern horror’.

2 Hitchcock directed 54 features3. That qualifies as a subgenre. So too do the respective films of Spike Lee, Martin Scorcese and Oliver Stone, amongst others. This can be called the ‘auteur clause’.
Modern horror began with George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead 1968. It was the first film to place horror in a contemporary setting and have an impact at the box office[4][5]. It put an end to the prevalence of gothic and inspired the horror bastards6 of the 70s. Those horror bastards were soon to become horror meisters.
Meisters at work: John Carpenter and Wes Craven
5 There were contemporary-set horror films before Night of the Living Dead – such as Village of the Damned 1960. None of them had the immediate cultural significance the former had. Ironically Village of the Damned was remade by John Carpenter in 1995.
6 Thrill Fiction uses the term ‘bastards’ as an affectionate counter to the celebrated movie brats7 who were nascent at the same time. Whereas a brat is tolerable and ultimately controllable a bastard is shameful and lives in the ghetto with his whore mother. Horror remains the bastard child of Hollywood. It lives in the ghettos of DVD and VOD.
Psycho inspired the horror meisters with its plot, suspense, thrills and reveal (as well as themes and imagery). Its influence can be seen in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974; the deserted, gothic, haunted house inhabited by a lunatic family. Wes Craven used this motif in The Hills Have Eyes 1977. He would later revive the Janet Leigh prototype in Scream 1996. John Carpenter stripped Psycho of its story and exacerbated its plot; he took the Psycho paradigm and created the Halloween 1978 template. To cement the connection between the two films he cast Janet Leigh’s daughter. Psycho had a knife wielding killer, it enhanced the woman-in-peril, it hinted at the ‘final girl’. Halloween perfected these tropes. It is the first slasher film. Psycho is its progenitor.
This is where the misconception arose. The horror meisters worship Psycho in interviews1. They talk of its significance and cite it as a horror film.  As well they should as this is how they see it but it is the lazy and inept journalist who then takes that citation and repeats it as fact. Prior to the 1970s no one described Psycho as a horror film[8][9].

The Psycho inspired Halloween template remains the horror standard 35 years later. That standard was challenged by La Casa Muda 2011. If Psycho was flesh and Halloween bone then La Casa Muda is bone with its marrow eviscerated. What remains is an empty shell; a concept – and 86 minutes of filler.

In order to market this naked emperor the filmmakers employed gimmick. The Blair Witch Project 1999 gimmicked the audience. La Casa Muda gimmicked the festivals and it worked. The American remake Silent House 2012 wrapped before the original Uruguayan film was released Stateside.
The American production hired a husband and wife already versed in torpor. Writer Laura Lau and director Chris Kentis made Open Water 2003, a film with a concept with no story to tell. So it is with Silent House. Nothing was lost in translation because nothing was said in Spanish. The attempt to pad this non-event with narrative is akin to a toddler with a colouring book.

The American filmmakers didn’t have the gimmicks of the original. What they had was the rising starlet Elizabeth Olsen. This is an interesting personality to become a movie star. In America she has famous twin sisters. The press have long boasted about the twins being billionaires10 which inadvertently questions the credibility of younger sibling Elizabeth.

The average income of an actor in the UK is £6k-£60k11. Needless to say it is bottom heavy. Most actors struggle to earn a living. It is the same in America. In Los Angeles they famously wait on tables. Elizabeth Olsen comes from money. She is taking the spot of a working class kid who needs the gig. She is taking the spot of a Fairuza Balk, Demi Moore or a Sarah Michelle Gellar and she’s doing it in the indies; the job centre of the starving actor. Olsen is being primed for stardom because lazy journalists are bewitched by her last name and physical resemblance to her sitcom star sisters. If Olsen wants to be an actor she should fund her own movies. Her typical insipid performance in this one is reminiscent of Bridget – not Jane – Fonda.
Hollywood royalty: Elizabeth Olsen
Silent House was not made to entertain. It was made to exploit on the back of La Casa Muda. The former has a reputed production budget12 of $1million and it took $13m13 in its theatrical run. Internet scams target the proletariat. Bernie Madoff targeted the rich. Silent House targeted the art house and Elizabeth Olsen was the Trojan horse. This is what Psycho looks like in the hands of the inept. The lazy journalist will cite Silent House as a horror film. It is so far removed from horror that the best definition for the movie is ‘a film starring Elizabeth Olsen’

Read more Thrill Fiction: The Dead
 1 Ground breaking horror films DreadCentral
3 Alfred Hitchcock filmography IMDb
4 Night of the Living Dead The Numbers
8 Psycho review New York Times 1960
9 Psycho review San Francisco Chronicle 1960
10 Olsen twins billionaires Forbes
11 UK actors pay scale
12 Silent House production budget
Technorati Tags:, , , , , ,
Generated By Technorati Tag Generator
blog comments powered by Disqus