If one movie is never enough for you and you're looking for a flick to get you in the mood for this week's new release, Double Feature Friday is here to help. Every week we break down the new releases and pair them with older movies that you should catch before heading out to the theater. Or just skip the new movie and check out the classic we recommend.
"John Carter" & "Princess of Mars"
Much has been made of John Carter and his long journey to the big screen, but did you know that he made a stop by the direct-to-video bin on his way there? That's right. The first real "John Carter" movie came out in 2009, starring Antonio Sabato Jr. as Carter and porn star Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris. "Princess of Mars" was made by the cash-grabbing crap factory The Asylum as a way to cash in on "Avatar's" popularity but with the budget and production values of an upscale porno. If you don't believe me, check out the trailer here. At the very least, it should lower your expectations just enough to make "John Carter" seem really, really good.
Pro-tip: if your family owns a summer house that hasn't been used since your early childhood, probably best to hire someone else to renovate and sell it. If you return to this home, chances are extremely high that you'll be the victim of an uninterrupted horror sequence that works out well for approximately no one.
Welcome to "Silent House," the Elizabeth Olsen starring thriller hitting theaters today (March 9). Olsen takes the lead as Sarah, a young woman working with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) to patch up their old vacation house before putting it on the market. But one fateful evening in the all-but-abandoned home leads Sarah to realize that the house isn't so silent after all, and that some terrors are truly inescapable.
Keep on reading for five reasons to check out the fright-fest this weekend.
"Silent House" is not the first movie featuring a lone female protagonist fighting unknown horrors, trapped in a house she can’t get out of, unable to call for help -- it’s not necessarily new, we get it. But the way "Silent House" is filmed goes a long way towards altering the type of scare the audience receives from every scene -- something that star Elizabeth Olsen was quick to elaborate on when she talked to MTV News.
"I think what’s cool is that we can’t frame up a shot and then you know something’s going to happen, like the wind’s going to blow or an open curtain or a window or the curtain will just start blowing," Olsen said when asked how "Silent House" is set apart from its horror peers. "You don’t have those moments where you can assume what’s going to happen next because everything’s discovered in the moment because of the way we don’t edit things together."
It’s hard to be stuck in a house that you can’t get out of, especially when there’s a bloodthirsty intruder on the loose. It’s even harder when all of the power is shut off and you’re basically a prisoner in the dark with nothing but a piddly lamp to light your way and keep you from stumbling over a number of things -- boxes, chairs, your father’s unconscious body, and more. But such is the peril of Elizabeth Olsen’s character in "Silent House," and the hardship she must endure while looking for a way out.
In this exclusive photo, we see Olsen in the reflection of a mirror, holding one of those lamps and looking quite scared as she makes her way through the house. It’s only vaguely familiar territory for her, as she hasn’t been to the family lake house in a number of years, unlike the malicious presence who’s on her trail.
"Silent House" is not the first scary movie to come our way from Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. Back in 2003, the husband-wife duo came to our attention with "Open Water," the nailbiter about an American couple stranded at sea and forced to survive a pack of bloodthirsty sharks. Though the subject material isn’t the same, it’s easy to see the structural parallels between the two films: small cast, shaky camera, an emphasis on what’s lying out of sight. Sharks may be scarier to you than a home invader, but it’s up for debate.
Talking to MTV News, Kentis and Lau were asked about their affection for real life stories, and how those stories have influenced their films. "It’s true," Lau quickly said.
"We’ve noticed it ourselves," Kentis followed. "I think it’s because the kind of scares that emotionally affect me are those things.
Elizabeth Olsen is the only star of note in "Silent House," carrying almost the entire film by herself after her character’s father is injured very early on. With so much resting on her shoulders, she had to be locked in at all times, especially during the film’s ultra-scary parts where her feelings basically become the audience’s. Speaking to MTV News, Olsen was candid about how she got into the proper state of mind for those "scared as sh--" moments.
"I keep saying I have a very fatalistic imagination but I guess when I’m filming, all I think about is how close the enemy is," she said. "So the closer I feel them coming, that’s kind of the pole for how I measure things."
When "Silent House" opens up, Elizabeth Olsen and her father have retreated to their lakeside home in order to fix it up for sale. But when a terrorizing presence reveals itself inside the house, Olsen finds her father incapacitated, and more shockingly, the house completely sealed off from the outside. As she tries to make her way out, she has to match wits with the home invader and explore every nook of an environment she’s only barely familiar with.
It’s a classic horror premise: characters trapped in one place through a force supernatural or man-made, attempting to find an exit with little idea of what to do. In conjunction with "Silent House," we’ve collected a list of five other memorable scary movies in which there’s no way out, sometimes not even at the end.
The unbroken shot that makes up "Silent House" is a unique visual gimmick, but there’s another big factor at hand: the close camerawork that almost never leaves Elizabeth Olsen’s side, giving us an intensely personal perspective throughout the film. As harrowing as that camerawork is to experience as an audience member, it doesn’t compare to how it must’ve felt to film it firsthand.
Talking to MTV News, Olsen tried to explain how the filming process broke down, and how comfortable she was with the closeness by the end of shooting.
Asked how close the camera was, Olsen stuck her hand out about a foot away from her face. "The DP [director of photography] who shot it, Igor Martinovic, he does lots of documentaries so he’s really good at not getting a shadow or reflection anywhere," she said. "He and I felt like we were dancing together the whole time. It felt like this choreographed ballet."
The first thing you’ll notice about "Silent House" is its striking visual aesthetic. With the swift advancement of camera technology over the last decade, pretty photography is more common than not in modern horror movies. But "Silent House" has a distinctive gimmick to separate it from its peers: the intimate perspective of Elizabeth Olsen’s character, whose side we almost never leave during the duration of the film.
In this exclusive clip, it’s nighttime at the house and Olsen and her father are settling in for the night, carrying lamps because the lights seem to be out. As she hears a noise coming from upstairs, she tells her father, "I thought I heard something up there." He disputes it, of course, because that’s what dads in horror movies do, but offers to go upstairs and check it out. While he heads up the staircase, there’s a slight rumbling in the background as Olsen watches her father’s light disappear back into the darkness.
Is "Silent House" the scariest movie of 2012? That depends on you: perhaps your arm hairs are triggered by something unconventional, like arctic wolves or Katherine Heigl in a wedding dress. But we're going to guess that based on its unnerving visual style, "Silent House" will be the most singular horror film you see this year, well worthy of the hype it's receiving as we head towards its March 9 release.
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be presenting a vault of exclusive material related to the film such as photographs, clips, and interviews with lead actress Elizabeth Olsen and director Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. Today, you can look at a still showing Olsen slowly making her way through the house, lamp in hand, trying to figure out just what’s making all those gruesome noises (which might account for those watery eyes).