Open Water creators bring chills to shore
Chris Kentis and Laura Lau spent more than two years filming Open Water. But the lengthy production schedule for their ultra-low-budget 2004 scuba-diving thriller was nothing compared with the seven years it took the couple to make another movie following their Sundance Film Festival breakout.
The husband-and-wife filmmaking team worked on a number of projects that never got out of development hell, including a film about the Second World War sinking of the USS Indianapolis, whose survivors — in a tragic Open Water turn — were mauled by sharks.
“It was very, very tough,” Lau says of the several movies that didn’t get made. Adds Kentis: “But we were able to make a living.”
Then their fortunes changed in a hurry.
In a frantic rush over the last several months, Kentis and Lau were able to write, film and edit Silent House, a horror movie that premiered at a jammed industry and press screening late Thursday night and played to a terrified, sold-out house Friday afternoon. A few days later, most domestic and worldwide rights to the film were sold to Liddell Entertainment, which plans to resell the U.S. rights to another distributor.
Loosely adapted from a Uruguayan film that premiered at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, Silent House is a fast-moving look at the very bad experiences that 20-year-old Sarah (played by Elizabeth Olsen, sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) suffers in a boarded-up New York house her father is preparing to sell.
As with the Spanish-language original, Silent House is shot to look as if the entire movie were done in a single take — there are no cutaways, no obvious edits. The directors say that some of the takes in the film run more than 10 minutes.
The single-take approach created logistical hurdles, but Kentis and Lau say they never saw the choice as a clever cinematic contrivance. Instead, they felt their unblinking camera would bring moviegoers deeper into the story, so that the audience might share Sarah’s terror on a more visceral level.
“We thought, ‘What’s a new way to create that sense of reality?’ ” Kentis says. Adds Lau: “There’s no space between the audience and Sarah. You cannot get away from her.”
They didn’t want the film to be pigeonholed into a narrow category within the horror genre. “Is it a supernatural story? Is it a home-invasion story?” Lau says. “I wanted to play on all of those levels.”