It's Olsen's performance that makes Sarah's plight matter. And the actress proves that her mesmerizing turn in last fall's Martha Marcy May Marlene -- about a woman on the lam from a cult -- wasn't a fluke.
Sarah does any number of silly things while scurrying through this not-so-silent house, but keeps the audience on her side; you want her to get out of the house immediately but you don't get annoyed with her when she can't.
The directors have come up with a new and powerful way to film a thriller: Silent House contains no quick editing in the active moments, and there is never an instance when the movie cuts unexpectedly to something scary as the soundtrack thunders.
It wouldn't work without the exceptional work of Olsen. Her uneasily captivating performance here could almost be viewed as the "why" prequel to Martha Marcy May Marlene, the other chiller from Sundance 2011 that established her as rising star to watch.
My attention was held for the first act or so. Then any attempt at realism was abandoned, and it became clear that the house, and the movie containing it, were devices to manufacture methodical thrills.
Olsen continues to reveal a startling comfort and maturity in front of the camera for someone so young and relatively inexperienced. But the film's dexterous cinematographer, Igor Martinovic, is just as much of a star behind the lens.