The Silent House (La Casa Muda)
Review by Jack Foley
URUGUAYAN horror film The Silent House is notable for having been shot in a continuous 79-minute take. It’s also effectively creepy for most of its running time.
Directed by Gustavo Hernandez, and no doubt inspired by Hitchcock’s Rope, it takes the classic ‘things that go bump in the night’ scenario and proves that the most effective horror films continue to be those that take on the simplest, most traditional form.
Here, Hernandez takes two tangible fears (darkness and not being alone) and transforms them into a nerve-testing extravaganza.
And while the ending doesn’t quite match the set-up or subsequent journey, it’s still a memorably creepy experience that has already spawned an American remake.
Allegedly based on a true story, The Silent House picks up as Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) arrive at a remote cottage in the Uruguayan country in order to carry out some repairs in time for its owner to sell.
They intend to stay overnight in order to make an early start in the morning, but as they settle down Laura begins to hear some noises coming from upstairs. When Wilson goes to investigate, things take a dramatic turn.
Much of the ‘fun’ in watching Hernandez’s film lies in seeing how he manages to sustain the tension while using the one take, as well as how he manipulates the scares.
And it’s a tribute to his skill as a filmmaker that the jumps are very well handled, mainly through sparse lighting and blink-and-you’ll-miss-them revelations, even though the shooting style does beg some questions over the validity of the single take.
Hence, while avid cine-philes may well be pondering if he really did pull it off in one shot, horror fans will revel in the chills as Hernandez often cranks up the claustrophobic tension to unbearable levels.
It’s just a shame, therefore, than his ending disappoints and, perhaps worse, even forces you to question what’s gone before and whether certain scenes were even necessary.
While the continuation of the story during the end credits and beyond is both a risk (given people’s desire to head for the exit once they start to roll) and a case of including one final explanatory scene too many.
Niggles aside, though, The Silent House remains worth seeing on both a technical and horror level.
In Spanish, with subtitles
Running time: 79mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: August 1, 2011