Rising star Elizabeth Olsen takes the lead in this haunted house horror film shot in one continuous 88-minute take. The Sundance 2011 hit opens March 9.
After making considerable noise with her film debut, and with her leading role in the horror film “Silent House” Elizabeth Olsen raises the volume to a full-on shriek.
After “Martha Marcy May Marlene” changes Olsen’s preamble describer from “Mary Kate and Ashley’s younger sister” to “powerhouse actress of the moment,” her admirers have been eagerly awaiting her next onscreen turn, this time in an avant garde horror film from “Open Water’s” husband-and-wife writing/directing team Laura Lau and Chris Kentis. Using adept camera trickery, the movie appears to never cut away from Olsen’s Sarah during a terrifying visit to a not-as-abandoned-as-it-seems house, never providing a break from tension, and as Olsen tells PopcornBiz, keeping up the suspense was nearly as harrowing for her.
On summoning the same continuous emotional intensity level for each long, uninterrupted scene – and the unintentional side effects:
You just play with your imagination. You try and keep a barometer of knowing at what minute are we in, and you hope that even though you do something for 12 hours over and over again you can maintain that beat without making it go too far because you have so much more to go later…Eventually it became a muscle. Actually, it became detrimental in my personal life because I remember having a meeting with someone at NYU and they weren’t understanding: I took the semester off, but then they told me that I didn’t have my papers in on time - but I DID have my papers in on time. My advisor didn’t file them when they were supposed to be. So it was documented that I didn’t have my papers in on time and they expected me to pay for 40% of my semester. And I was just like ‘Wait, but I filled out paperwork before. I don’t understand.’ And I was having this conversation with this woman – eventually it all got cleared up, but I’m sitting there and immediately tears come down my face. I’m like, ‘I’m so sorry. I don’t usually, I’m really good, I can’t believe I’m crying right now.’ It was because my body was literally pushed so many times and there are so many easy buttons to get me emotional. I was so mortified that I’m dealing with something business/work oriented and I just made it so personal really fast.
On adapting to the film’s unique technical demands:
It was difficult to go through a scene so many times and record it 100%, and what would happen is we’d have an 11- or 12-minute take and something would go wrong at like 10 minutes and made every single thing you did completely unusable. So that was the hardest, to think ‘Can’t you just use a little bit of that?’ ‘No, because technically we can’t use it. That’s not where our  stitch is.’
On how a blown take was so much more frustrating than on the average film:
This was hard for every department involved. This was hard for lighting, for focus, for sound, for everything. One time we were doing the very last scene – the ending’s changed since then but the last shot was actually on a Polaroid. Literally it’s a second, and we finished and we’re like, “Good – we got it.” I hate saying this because it’s like ‘Oh HE did it,” but one of the props people had to put the Polaroid in a certain place. Right when the camera got there, there was just a finger pulling out. It was the last second of the whole film! Really, if we had a lucky day, we had two usable takes on a lucky day, so if you get that close… That was the most frustrating mess-up but he felt so bad and you can’t blame anyone. It was very difficult to be props people and do anything with continuity for this film.
On her taste for the horrific:
I love horror movies. I love them and when I watch them I have my hands over my ears, just in case I want to cover my ears and I want to close my eyes. That’s how I watch horror movies.
On whether her family will watch “Silent House”:
Dad hasn’t seen it – Dad will see it. Mom, I don’t want her to. My mom’s terrified of scary movies, but she’ll probably see it just because she loves me. My brother’s a big horror movie fan, so he’ll see it. My sisters probably will see it, but my younger siblings have yet to be allowed to see a movie I’m in.
On her recent rocket-ride to the top of Hollywood’s awards season crop:
You’re part of this thing for like a night that is not reality, but I got to bring a friend to everything so we just got to together be like ‘Well, this is weird and crazy.’ And then go home and have these moments in a hotel room together being like ‘What is happening?’ I’m from L.A. – I’ve always had friends and families who exist in this world, and so at a certain point you think you’re numb to it, but when you’re actually there, you’re just kinda like ‘This is ridiculous – I talked to Tom Colicchio today. That’s crazy.’
On how her upbringing made her wary about the invasion of celebrity into her life along with success:
I don’t really want it to infiltrate my personal life, and for the most part I don’t do anything that [promotes that] – like I didn’t grow up in a part of L.A. and I don’t really live in a part of L.A., which are hotspots so, so far, it’s fine. I’m very well aware of what reality is, and I’m very well aware of what these other things are, and that’s work. Even if you’re going to a party, that’s work. It’s not your life. It’s definitely not my reality. I’m seeing my little sister play in her championship basketball game tonight. That’s my reality. So you just try and work and know that that’s why you’re doing your job.
"Silent House" opens in theaters everywhere today