Husband-and-wife filmmaking tandem Chris Kentis and Laura Lau made a splash, both figuratively and literally, with 2004’s Open Water, which unfolded almost entirely in the ocean, and could very loosely be described as the Blair Witch Project version of Jaws. Telling the story of a pair of stranded divers, it was a nervy, low-budget movie that tapped into fear in a visceral, primal way. It was also very profitable, raking in $54 million internationally against production costs that were less than one percent of that. So it’s been a surprise that the pair have been away so long.
That was not by design, said Kentis at a recent press day for Silent House, their much buzzed-about new thriller which straddles the intersection between home invasion flick, paranormal/haunted house film and psychological drama. Two films in particular — a passion project on the downing of the USS Indianapolis during World War II, and American City, a drama set in post-Katrina New Orleans — kicked around in development hell for many years, never coming to fruition. Lau and Kentis also dutifully worked up one new screenplay each year, but nothing gained final traction.
It was only after a producer familiar with Open Water, Agnes Mentre, ran into the pair’s lawyer, Sue Bodine, and inquired about Kentis and Lau that they finally found the sliver of luck they needed to get a movie back on the big screen. Mentre had secured remake rights to the Uruguayan film La Casa Muda, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as part of its Director’s Fortnight line-up and would eventually go on to be that country’s official Oscar Foreign Film submission, and sensed that the pair would be a good match with the material, which unfolds in streamlined, real-time fashion, mimicking a single take.
The film is a heady experiment anchored by a star-confirming turn from Elizabeth Olsen (Martha Marcy May Marlene), and its release this weekend stands poised to test Olsen’s burgeoning “It Girl” status, as well as help disrupt — along with holdover box office champion The Lorax — the supposed theatrical dominance of Disney’s ballyhooed John Carter. I had a chance recently to sit down and chat one-on-one with married co-directors Kentis and Lau, so for the excerpted conversation, over at ShockYa, click here.