Silent House Explained- Trauma Has A Lasting Effect And The True Story Behind The Movie
Good twist endings are hard to come by and even harder to conceal. That is why they are so polarizing to audiences. For every Sixth Sense or Identity, there is Glass. Sure there are those in-between like the joyously indulgent The Boy, but most of the time, they are either wildly successful or god awful. The American Silent House starring Elizabeth Olsen, everyone’s favorite witchy woman Wanda Maximoff, is a remake of the 2010 film La Casa Muda. The original is superior to the remake, but both are worth a watch.
Both are loosely based on a real story from a small village in Uruguay in 1944. That being said, there is zero proof the story is factual. In all likelihood, it is an oral history campfire story passed down through generations that spawned a great idea that suffered from slightly off execution. In all fairness, Olsen is impressive, and I actually enjoyed the twist, even if I felt somewhat cheated by it. Here’s everything you need to know about the bizarre ending of Silent House.
We meet Sarah and her uncle and father arriving at their summer lake house to clean it out and prepare it for sale. The power is off, and the place is dark, isolated, and full of memories. Shortly after arriving, Sarah is visited by a supposed childhood friend Sophie who she doesn’t remember. That night, someone attacks her father, and he is injured falling down the stairs. If that isn’t bad enough, someone begins stalking her, and she is stuck in the house. She manages to escape and finds her uncle, who tries to help. The last act reads more like a paranormal story than a mind-bender, which does help conceal the twist. Just as Sarah and her uncle think they might escape, Sarah drops the literal hammer on them and the viewer.
Who is real?
The only real people who exist in Silent House are Sarah, her father, and uncle. Everyone is a projection of a disturbed mind. Everyone else is something Sarah hallucinates to explain what she is doing. PTSD from her childhood trauma, coupled with a fierce need to protect herself, caused her to believe there were intruders in the house trying to hurt her and her family. They were never there, and Sarah was the killer.
What happened to Sarah?
There are clues that Sarah is troubled from almost the beginning. When her uncle and father arrive with her at the house on the first night, there are flashing lights and there is a brief moment when she is temporarily lost. She looks shellshocked for a couple of seconds before snapping back to reality. This could easily be the moment she disassociates, and everything begins to unravel in her mind. Additionally, when Sophie comes to visit, Sarah doesn’t remember her at all. As she leaves, Sophie sardonically says she can’t believe she doesn’t remember her considering what they went through. Her uncle abused other girls. Sophie was one of the girls, along with Sarah. Lastly, the bathtub scene with a much younger Sarah and the blood-soaked bed were not so subtle clues that she was sexually abused.
Her uncle abused Sarah, and her father was at least passively involved. They have an unusually antagonistic relationship which could be chalked up as normal sibling fighting, but it feels messier. He knew what Uncle Peter did and allowed it to happen. He never went to the police and kept Sarah from telling anyone. Sarah was disassociated from the event, and the trauma caused her to have a psychotic break. Alone in the dark, in the home where the abuse happened, she snapped, and everything we see from Sophie to the people attacking her in the house is figments of her imagination. She repressed the memories and created other personalities, including the intruder, to protect herself from her uncle and the memories.
The ending of Silent House
The end of Silent House is a colossal gotcha. Whether it is successful or not is debatable, but the twist is definitely something. At the end of Silent House, Sarah has completely devolved into madness. She has visions of a young girl in a tutu that could be a ghost from a haunted home or the genuine ghosts of her past. The answer is, of course, the latter. Everything we thought we saw through Sarah’s eyes was false. She is the ultimate unreliable witness, and her point of view is very tainted.
There are no other people in the house or on the road outside. She is the young girl, the intruder, and the one who kills her uncle and father. It is only at the very end that another personality, Sophie, helps Sarah remember what happened to her as a child and what she has done now. The polaroid scene was a repressed memory of Uncle Peter taking pictures of her as a child. His abuse escalated from pictures to sexual molestation. Most of what happens at the end and the dialogue shared by Sarah, her uncle, and father is hallucinated. The violence was not, however.
She beat them to a pulp. In the final scene, she leaves the house alone in the dark. Who knows how long she will retain her memories of the night and what happens to her now. There is the slimmest possibility not even her uncle and father were real. They could have been hallucinations along with everyone else, and the blood Sarah gets on herself is a result of running through a deserted house and nothing more. I think we can all agree that is pretty preposterous, though.
Silent House gets a bad rap because of its shaky-cam style stemming from the continuous one-shot style. It is also maligned because the ending, which could have been very, “I see dead people,” was actually “there are no dead people.” More viewers found the twist manipulative rather than shocking. That is the razor edge you walk when you try to fool an audience as profoundly as directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau. If nothing else, Olsen is superb, even if she tricked us well.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.