Silent House: Capturing Fear in Real Time

During class tonight, my classmates and I shared what we want to focus on for our photo essays and what types of cameras we wanted to use in order to convey a specific message.

When I went to see The Woman in Black with my mother over the weekend, the trailer for Silent House, starring Elizabeth Olsen and opening in theaters on March 9, came on. For the two and a half minutes the trailer played, my mother and I could not breathe. I said in a previous post that I’m not a fan of horror movies, but after seeing this trailer, I wanted to try to dissect it to see why it had such an profound impact on the two of us.

Here’s the trailer; it’s very intense, so I’m giving you fair warning.

According to the movie’s Facebook page, “Silent House uses meticulous camera choreography to take the audience on a tension-filled, real time journey, experienced in a single uninterrupted shot.” You obviously can’t tell that from the trailer, but narrowing down the film’s perspective to tell the story solely from the protagonist’s point of view is a risky move, but in the trailer it pays off in spades. In addition to the limited perspective, not allowing the audience to break away from the conflict builds up the tension and fear for the characters.

Another interesting technique employed in this trailer is the use of Polaroid pictures. Ironically, Polaroids also came up in class tonight. I personally haven’t seen a Pollaroid camera since I was a kid, but here in this trailer there is nothing even remotely nostalgic about them. If anything, they only add to the terror but providing only brief flashes of clarity before plunging the viewers back into darkness and disorientation. The editors chose to begin and end the trailer with the Polaroids, which according to Wikipedia is “an instant camera that generates a developed film image.” Not only does the use of Polaroids emphasizes the fact that the movie is in real time, but also leads me to believe that they are a vital part of the plot.

I can honestly say that I will not be going to see this movie when it comes out (if the trailer scared me as much as it does, then I can’t imagine sitting through 88 minutes of more of the same), but the use of a singular perspective, real time filming in one uninterrupted shot, and Polaroids make this horror film look truly terrifying.

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This entry was written by juliannalopez and published on February 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm. It’s filed under Digital Story Telling, Movie Trailers, Video and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Silent House: Capturing Fear in Real Time

  1. I hate movies like this, but you convinced me to watch it and now I’m never coming in the house again or using my Polaroid. What would you say are the semiotics of the Polaroid here?

    To see a much nicer use of Polaroid film, check out the video for The Decemberists’ Down by the Water (http://vimeo.com/20851971), which was shot with expired Chocolate peel-apart film. This is different from the instant film used in the trailer and doesn’t make that iconic Polaroid sound. (Also, now shaking a la Outkast’s Hey Ya.)

    I love the expired Polaroid Chocolate film and I suspect that the reason there is none left is because of the thousands needed to make that video. So, though I love the video I hate the fact that they used so much of it. (Thankfully, I have 30+ film packs in in my film fridge.)

    • Interesting question about the semiotics of the Polaroid. It’s hard to tell from just the trailer, but maybe it acts as a comma or semi-colon for a movie that is one long run-on sentence?

      The movie definitely uses an interesting perspective in real-time, but I doubt I will see it. I’m not a huge horror fan. I jump at the slightest surprise (even though the music/background audio is a dead giveaway that is about to happen). I have to be in a mood to watch most horror films.

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