These 88 straight, seemingly uninterrupted minutes of a terrifying turn in Sarah's life make for a movie that gets your heart pumping no more than a brisk walk up a hill. Elizabeth Olsen stars as the main character who is helping her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) clean out their old lake house so they can sell it. But this ain't Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock's Lake House--instead of a mailbox causing mayhem, it's somebody with a blunt object and a murderous streak.
Most films contain edits as a matter of course, but this one is being advertised as a continuous take. But just like Hitchcock's Rope, that isn't the entire truth--they just hid the cuts. The result makes you feel like you're being dragged alongside our endangered heroine through her plight…well, if your eyes continually go out of focus and get really close to people's faces. Although I couldn't tell where the expertly-done edits were and it did make the film feel very claustrophobic, I ended up being annoyed by it. The film never got interesting enough to make me stop thinking about the wide-angle lens and how banged up the camera operator must be from falling on the ground so much. These thoughts also kept me from being scared once.
Elizabeth Olsen, however, does more work than any electronic equipment to ratchet up the tension and keep the movie as interesting as humanly possible. In both this and last year's Martha Marcy May Marlene, even when she's dialed to "normal" she seems so fragile that she might snap with a strong exhale. Against homicidal forces intent on destroying her in an abandoned house with boarded up windows and padlocks on every door, her demise seems inevitable, and even she seems to know it. I see her big eyes and turn into a gigantic sympathy machine, which kept me watching. She is almost entirely the reason for my two star rating.
(Slight spoilers follow) Gimmicky horror movies that promise a unique experience don't get a free pass on their endings just because they resurrected an age-old idea and promoted it as something new. In this movie, the screenwriters definitely lacked a time machine to take us back to 1998 so they could be the first ones to Shyamalan us. I saw it coming, guys, and it just made me more irritated.