The premise is simple enough: a young girl is helping her father and uncle clear out the old family house and fix it up so they can put it on the market when a mysterious noise alerts her to danger. The rest of the film is a harrowing descent into terror.
Another Americanization of a scary foreign film (the Uruguayan film, “La Casa Muda”), this film got a lot of attention for billing itself as one long, continuous shot. It’s not, but the fact that the film makers are able to make it appear so convincingly is a thing to behold if you’re fan of the actual art of film making.
Though not shot as POV, the fact that it is shot as one continuous take focused on Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) gives it that feel and it works really well, for the most part. There are some moments that are hard to see because of the lighting and filming approach, but in short order you’re drawn in with her and really feel like a part of the film as it unfolds more or less in real time. The suspense becomes palpable and by focusing solely on her and her reactions, you’re forced to try to understand what’s going on the same way she is. You’re just as in the dark, both literally and figuratively, until the conclusion. Olsen’s performance is nothing short of masterful.
The conclusion is the one issue I had with the film. You’re given the clues to basically figure out what is going on, but the clues themselves don’t make much sense. Without giving anything away, why would they be there and why wouldn’t they freak her dad and her uncle out? Her mysterious friend is also handled somewhat clumsily, but not enough to detract much from the rest of the film.