Saturday, 22 September 2012

Lawless and Silent House

The Wettest County in the World, also known as Lawless (which I will use to make a life just a little bit easier), is based on the novel written by Matt Bondurant, the grandson of one the main characters in his historical novel. Lawless is set during the probation era, a time in which alcohol was banned, thus presenting the opportunity for people to profit from the trading of alcohol. The Bondurant brothers – Forrest (Tom Hardy), Howard (Jason Clarke) and Jack (Shia LaBeouf) – are just one example of the many businesses that operate on the illegal trading of alcohol.

John Hillcoat proved in his previous feature film, The Road, that he has an eye for visuals as his film contained a believable and drab post apocalyptic world. In Lawless (with the help of costume and set designers), Hillcoat expertly recreates 1920s America. Visually the film is certainly superb, as the slick haircuts and contemporary cars add to the contemporary feel of the film and BenoĆ®t Delhomme’s cinematography is excellent, however the films pace somewhat stumbles along. The super visuals are backed up by some terrific performances from the cast, Tom Hardy, while a grunting a bit too much and occasionally hard to understand (bit like Bane), is superb, as is Guy Pearce as the hateful and brutal Special Detective Charlie Rakes. There is admirable support from Jessica Chastain, and Shia LaBeouf is not bad either. There are issues, the pace is a little slow in the first two acts, but it does burst into life in an explosive finale, and the talents of Gary Oldman are wasted in a horribly underwritten role.


Like the original film (and, to an extent, Rope and Russian Ark) Silent House is supposedly shot in one continuous take. There are of course rumours circling the interweb that this is a load of nonsense, but that said, the interweb also says that the Royal family are prehistoric lizards. However, I have to admit the former rumour is more likely to be true. Anyway, if you’ve seen the Uruguayan original you know the basic plot of the American remake which concerns Sarah, played by Elizabeth Olsen (who I will call Lizzie), who, with her father and his brother, is cleaning a house ready for it to be placed on the market, however, Sarah soon becomes under attack.

When I say deja vu I am not talking about the Denzel Washington film, what I am talking is the feeling that you have been somewhere before despite this being your first ever visit or the feeling that events have a powerful similarity to what has happened in the past. This is the exact feeling you get when watching Silent House (if you’ve seen the original). The essential problem with the American remake is that it is pretty much the same film except for one or two minor differences in the plot and the characters are gibbering away in English rather than Spanish. It seems rather lazy to remake something and make very little changes, and (SPOLIERS) the fact that the main plot follows the basic structure of the original means that there is very little tension over who is attacking Sarah. It was the twist in the story that ruined the original film, but it doesn’t ruin the remake because there is no twist, it is not a twist for those who have seen the Uruguayan film.

Chris Kentis and Laura Lau are not talented enough directors to squeeze out the tension for those who have seen the original film (whether they can for those who have not seen the original I do not know, but audiences’ responses suggest not). As the mystery had already been solved in 2010, it makes for a very uninteresting and ultimately dull horror film, despite Lizzie’s impressive performance in the main role. Like in the original film the ‘real time’ horror gimmick does not really work. I do wonder what the point of this gimmick is. Is it to make thing seems more real, but do movies not already do that? Silent House is a rather pointless remake that feels into the exact same traps as the original. There is darkness under the surface, but it is all badly developed. It is not excruciatingly bad, but its existence seems futile.



  1. The original Silent House was rubbish so I'm not going through that again with the remake. Lawless, I very much agree with you. Visuals excellent, Pearce brilliant but Oldman a bit wasted!

  2. Thank you for posting this great review of Silent House, Myerla. I went online and rented Silent House on Friday afternoon, shortly before leaving my office it DISH. It was downloaded to my Hopper DVR and ready to watch by the time I got home. I haven’t seen the original, but the idea of an entire movie done in one seamless take intrigued me; I thought it was well executed if not genuine. After reading your review of Lawless I think I should go see if it’s available to watch tonight.

  3. Agree with your rating of Lawless, I was drawn in by the cast but it was pretty disappointing overall. I actually thought that Shia LaBeouf gave the best performance, which I definitely was not expecting!