The first thing most people seem to say after seeing this is how impressed they are that the younger sister of the Olsen twins can actually act. I definitely agree. I have a soft spot for long “oner” single take shots in movies. And since this movie is actually one single, long take, I couldn’t help but be highly impressed.
Writing: The script is moderately clever, borrowing some of the better ideas from the genre and piecing them together in a way that works for the style of the film. It doesn’t break much by way of new ground, but it gives the cast and camera team enough interesting material to sink their teeth into.
Production: This movie must have been murder on the camera crew. The unique, tight layout of the house that most of the movie takes place in must have been anything but forgiving for a camera team to be chasing around. Through the whole movie, it’s hard to get a sense of the layout of the house (intentionally so, I presume). There are scenes of the camera chasing characters up and down stairs, around rooms, through fields outdoors and other challenging physical maneuvers. In a few scenes, I actually marveled at the skill of the camera operator. It must have taken a lot of work to get to the point that they could pull off some of the more complex sequences. Put simply, this is a highly impressive production. They somehow make it look simple.
Cast: While there are nice supporting performances from a very minimal number of cast members, this movie belongs to Elizabeth Olsen. It lives or dies with her performance. She has garnered a lot of attention for the role, with many declaring it to be a breakthrough performance. That is definitely true. This could not have been an easy performance. It takes the start-to-finish discipline of a stage performance, the nuance of an up-close-and-personal film role, the physical complexity of hitting all your blocking marks, all while slowly ramping up the emotional levels of a character coming unglued. This movie is one long acting demo reel. It is surely one that will get her some more roles of note.
Music: Nathan Larson applies more of an ambiance to the movie than actual music score. It works well, and is very subtle. In a movie like this, they probably debated even having a score to begin with, but seem to have decided on something that is more about tone and tension rather than narrative and character. It’s a valid approach to the material. I’m sure the score wouldn’t work all too well on its own away from the film, but in context it serves its purpose nicely.