Silent House, The (2010)
Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Gustavo Hernandez
Starring Florencia Colucci, Gustavo Alonso, Abel Tripaldi, María Salazar
Entitled La Casa Muda in its native Spanish, Gustavo Hernandez’s The Silent House chronicles the nerve-wracking tale of Laura (Colucci) and her father (Alonso), who are hired to clear the grounds of a friend’s old cottage in preparation for it going on the property market. Arriving in the early evening, the pair are briefed on what they need to do, and one particularly important rule is stressed:
Don’t go upstairs.
Settling down in the living room for some sleep before they begin work, it isn’t long before Laura begins to hear strange noises from above and convinces daddy to go take a look. Thus begins a night of sheer terror as Laura attempts to locate her missing father and evade the faceless horror that resides in the cottage.
Short and, for the most part, exceptionally effective, The Silent House is the latest film to adopt the “one single take” gimmick – the success of which makes it irresistible to dissect Pedro Luque’s sleek and clever cinematography. It’s no easy feat, but the team here have not only avoided the majority of potential pitfalls that the approach opens up but also used it to generate some genuine surprises, jolting scares, an oppressive, suffocating atmosphere and a healthy amount of audience manipulation (camera movements that smoothly slip between first and third person perspectives keep the well-oiled machine moving). One particular visual movement during the opening minutes is almost fatally flawed – drawing attention to the camera in such a careless manner that immersion is immediately shattered. Luckily, once the fear sets in and things get moving, The Silent House manages to suck the audience back in and hold on with an iron grasp.
Going into too much detail regarding the events inside the house would only serve to diminish the flick’s effectiveness (especially considering its relative brevity), but rest assured: The Silent House is an absorbing, tense and downright terrifying experience...well, until the final act, that is. As the third act unfolds, what has been a thoroughly gripping and intriguing slice of fear comes almost entirely unraveled with the inclusion of a tired and overwrought twist that serves the film no good whatsoever. Perspectives become challenged, and the whole thing seems like a cheat – a tenuous and potentially confusing one at that – that devalues the headstrong confidence of the rest of the flick and leaves a severely sour taste in the mouth.
In spite of this, though, The Silent House still stands as a success. This is a fright flick that delivers on the scares and, when firing on all cylinders, will cause many a seat-edge fingernail injury. The answer to the mystery of La Casa Muda may be deeply unsatisfying, but you’ll scare yourself shitless finding it out.
3 1/2 out of 5
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