Monday, 1 October 2012

The Silent House (2010)

"The Silent House" or "La Casa Muda" (2010, Gustavo Hernández, Tokio Films Ltd) is an Uruguayan film (in Spanish) which was inspired by 'real events'. Whether the events were truly real or not, I can't say. But somehow, I doubt it.

Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father, Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) plan to spend the night in an empty farmhouse owned by a man called Nestor (Abel Tripaldi). They have been asked to clean and fix up the place as Nestor intends to sell it. Nestor warns Laura and Wilson not to go upstairs as it is unsafe. He then leaves, and the two settle for a snooze before they get up early to begin on the house.

Laura wakes her father upon hearing a noise from upstairs and he goes to investigate. He doesn't make it back....

The film is meant to be shot in one long scene, although truthfully it only appears this way and is actually just extremely well edited. Naturally, the creators like to sell the fact that it is 'one long take'. Whether it is or not is really not important, it feels like it is, which is truly the point, no?

Florencia Colucci gives an excellent performance throughout the film as she makes her way through the house in sheer terror. Her gruesome discovery is effectively played out in manic girlish panic, and as she starts to slowly edge over from fear to lunacy, she begins to see things...

The film makes effective and torturous use of mirrors, constantly filming into them, giving the viewer the idea that something may appear there, behind her. (Seriously, it was almost worse than "Don't Be Afraid of The Dark" and all the knife-y-McStabby-ear/eye scenes!)When the spooky background stuff starts for real, it actually loses some effect, though, as you're more relieved to finally be seeing what you've been waiting for all along.

The film is quiet, slow and tense. People who can't let themselves be dragged into what's happening on screen may find this style of film boring, and people who don't like subtitles might not be able to get past the start of the film. But the main body of the film has very little dialogue, and is quite engaging without need for language.

Very tense and atmospheric, the film keeps you guessing as to whether it's a straightforward slasher or a straightforward haunted house story. Laura is convincingly scared and confused, and the scenes are spooky. The gore is minimal and not the main point of the film.

Unfortunately, it's not a straightforward anything. My main problem with the film? Lack of real plot. A nonsensical twist, and a sloppy, rushed ending with the unhelpful 'written explanation' slide at the end. For a film that had played so much on the simple, atmospheric spookiness and some very effective camera work and lighting, it felt unnatural for it to about-face so quickly and go into 'unneeded complicated plot' mode....

However, as a low-budget indie film, it has a feeling of accomplishment to it and keeps you watching the background in anticipation.There are some truly freak jumpy bits, too.

Not a film I'd sing hundreds of praises over, but I think the above fairly positive drabble does it justice.

 [Picture: Tokio Films Ltd.]

Hani