THE SILENT HOUSE is a gritty, nightmarish psychological horror from the mind of Gustavo Hernández. The film boldly states the tag line “real fear in real time” and one could say that it does achieve this ambitious claim. Hernandez masterfully orchestrates the tension and scares of the film, choosing to make them few and far between. But when they come, you won’t forget them until the next one. The film opens with Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) being asked to clear out an abandoned, derelict house by it’s owner Nestor (Abel Tripaldi) before being warned by him not to go to the upstairs part of the house. As night approaches and Wilson drifts off, Laura begins to hear bangs and more ominously a baby’s rattle from the upstairs of the house. It’s not long before a malicious game of cat and mouse is struck up between Laura and an unknown entity.
Now as previously hinted at before this film is scary. I mean really scary, the film revolves around a chase around a house between an obviously vulnerable Laura and a figure hidden in the shadows. The film’s main “gimmick” (as I’m lost for a better word) is the fact that the film is shot as one continuous shot, no cuts. Nothing. So the camera for the majority of the film sticks with Laura as a reliable companion, acting almost as another unknown character. So when Laura runs, the camera runs behind her. However, you do not get the fortune of a cut to break the terror, the film constantly unravels itself without a pause for a breath. Without the cuts we’ve all become accustomed to, the film acts as a nightmare with little chance to render your thoughts which ends up consistently drenching the audience in a horror’s atmospheric equivalent to chain mail. There is one sequence in particular that involves Laura using the single flash of a Polaroid camera to light up a pitch black room in a dire attempt to see whatever is stalking her. That is the sort of tension and horror that most modern horror films can barely muster up during their 90 minute running time, let alone in a 45 second sequence.
Where the film falls decisively on its face is during its conclusion. The film stupidly attempts to pull the rug from beneath the audience in a quick, nasty and may I say cheap twist in order to drive the narrative to its conclusion. The only problem is, the twist makes no sense. It leaves a hole so big within the story, it engulfs the past hours worth of tension and leaves you wondering what just happened? Not only what just happened, but why the director thought that twist was even a good idea. It belittles the film and does damage to it, you leave the theatre thinking of a way to bend logic to fit the story instead of thinking about how it’s easily one of the scariest releases in a long while.
Overall what the film has in brawn (by that I mean in its choice of a continuous shot and the scare tactics Hernández uses) it lacks in brain. The story ends in such an unsatisfactory way that it shoots itself in the foot. However, with that being said it is one nasty little horror gem and in terms of cinematography it’s an absolute treat to watch. Whilst still containing some of the best scares I’ve seen in a horror film in a long while. Be warned though, be prepared to abandon any sense of logic at the cinema’s entrance.
Review by LiveWire Young Film Critic, Jay Crosbie (Apr ’11)