Film: The Silent House
UK Release date: 1st August 2011
Running time: 86 mins
Director: Gustavo Hernandez
Starring: Florencia Colucci, Abel Tripaldi, Gustavo Alonso, Maria Salazar
Reviewer: Adam Wing
In this day and age you need a great hook if you’re going to make an impact in the world of horror, but on paper, The Silent House reads like every other low budget thriller made in the last ten years. It’s a Uruguayan Spanish-language horror film directed by Gustavo Hernández, inspired by real events that took place in the 1940s. The Silent House is a low budget affair, filmed in much the same style as REC and The Last Exorcism, with a plot reminiscent of every Asian ghost story made since the success of Ringu back in ’98.
What sets The Silent House apart from its rivals is the fact that it was filmed in one continuous shot, which gives you 78 minutes of unadulterated terror, filmed in real time. It’s been billed as the first ever single-take horror film, which is all well and good if you’re talking about technical achievements (an achievement that remains under dispute by the way), but The Silent House should be judged on one thing and one thing alone. Will it scare the bejesus out of you?
Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father (Gustavo Alonso) arrive at a cottage in the middle of nowhere, planning to repair it so that the owner (Abel Tripaldi) can put it on sale. Which means, rather inevitably, that they will have to spend the night in order to start repairs the following day. It’s not long before the first horror movie cliché is ticked off, as Laura hears a sound coming from upstairs.
Everybody knows you shouldn’t investigate strange noises, but we wouldn’t have a very interesting story if they didn’t, so Wilson goes to see what’s going on while Laura remains downstairs, alone, waiting for her father’s return. It’s a simple premise then, one that focuses on Laura’s attempts to stay alive, and one that we’ve witnessed countless times before.
The Silent House won’t blow you away with its uninspired approach to storytelling and characterisation; Gustavo Hernández has delivered a straightforward horror film that lacks both coherence and originality. The twists that come are interesting, but even on first viewing they don’t add up. I’m all for taking giant leaps of faith when it comes to shocking denouements, but the final reveal lacks true conviction. Perhaps I missed something, but Gustavo Hernández seems more interested in hoodwinking the audience than making a film of genuine substance. Having said that, if you can overlook the lack of closure, The Silent House more than compensates with genuine thrills and spills.
Hernández sure knows how to make a horror movie, and The Silent House screams loudest with its slow build of tension, eerie set design and snappy shocks. There’s nothing particularly original in its delivery, once again we find ourselves surfing the wave of loud noises, spine-tingling nursery rhymes and figures lurking in the dark, but it’s the effectiveness that shatters. The Silent House kept me on tenterhooks throughout, and Hernández’ timing is impeccable; keeping things moving with well timed shocks and effortless scares. Florencia Colucci impresses in the lead role, and even with little dialogue to speak of, there’s no denying you’ll feel her every heartbeat.
If that isn’t scary enough, you wont be surprised to learn that a Hollywood remake is already in production. At the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau presented an English-language remake entitled Silent House, starring Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley). For now though, catch the original movie on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Silent House starts slow, but a gentle drip feed of dread should keep your cushion occupied. It’s not perfect, but any qualms over inconsistencies are soon forgotten as the exemplary execution and efficient blend of scares kick in. Gustavo Hernández is a name to keep an eye on then, and The Silent House emerges as a horror movie worth shouting about.