a review by Elizabeth Vinton
Big thanks to Madman Entertainment for submitting The Silent House for review! I had been anticipating watching Uruguay’s The Silent House due to the premise that it was filmed in real time with no cuts was quite an interesting idea. I really enjoy horror/thriller films, even if flawed, when they aim to do something different that enhances the atmosphere and story telling of the genre. I am speaking of such things as ‘found footage’ or fake documentary style, and the famous William Castle’s gimmicks.
A continuous take seemed bold and quite an ordeal for the actors themselves (especially for a very small cast), which I could see working for a horror film if it panned out. I have now seen it and read some of the controversy surrounding the movie and unfortunately I think any reputation of it being ground-breaking and unique is all the machinations of its publicity machine. The film itself did not live up to my expectations (which were great I must admit), but did utilize some interesting visuals and themes.
A young woman, Laura, and her father known as Wilson, have been employed by a family friend, Nestor, to tidy up around a remote crumbling two storey house so he can sell the property. They arrive the day before so they can begin early the next morning. After being warned not to venture upstairs as the area is unstable, they settles themselves in a sitting room and prepare to rest. Laura hears noises that sound like people in and around the house and frightened wakes up her father. Wilson goes to investigate. When further, more horrifying noises begin, Laura explores the house to find her father and the nightmare begins.
Again I must say my expectations were high, especially when it seemed like a good horror plot. The opening sequences of Laura and Wilson making their way to the house, exploring the outside and Laura exploring a little of the inside were a very clever way of introducing the viewer to the movie and making the setting very intimate. The house itself is beautiful and very creepy, as all houses are who looked well lived in but are devoid of any regular inhabitants. You just somehow know something untoward happened there without seeing any evidence of anything being wrong.
The actors portraying Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) and Nestor (Abel Tripaldi) were fine, to be honest they are not given enough to really develop their characters, as the piece is mainly about Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her experiences. This is unfortunate as she is either still developing as an actress and does not have the experience to tackle such a crucial role or was given poor direction. Or both. The part of Laura I found akin to roles for women in films such as Spain’s REC (and its US remake Quarantine) and the American Lovely Molly – somewhat strong female roles but the character unravels under the stress placed on them. You have to use actresses that can hold their own and carry the weight of the film on their performance. Florencia did not seem equal to the task, partially due to a sparse script that was repetitive at times, and perhaps also due to a seemingly limited emotional acting range. I came to find her quite irritating, and when she was relieved of being the sole actor on screen I re-engaged in the movie. It really was a shame as some of the visuals were very intelligent, disturbing and haunting.
The house, the intimate way the film was shot and followed Laura, the way light/dark was used and some very shocking scenes involving a Polaroid camera added to the atmosphere, and whilst not really new tricks to the horror genre, were filmed well and entertaining none the less. As for the continuous shot claim, the film did feel very much real time and unedited, despite some completely dark scenes and a continuation after a short narrative toward the end left room for some cuts. This did add positively to the atmosphere in that you felt like you were experiencing the film rather than simply watching.
There are sources on the internet that claim that the photo camera used to make the movie is incapable for filming the entire thing non-stop. I do not know whether this is true but between this and the dark scenes in the film that would allow for editing/cuts, the films reputation for being continuous is being questioned by its audience.
All in all the film was very flawed. The acting and the script, even the plot in general (which I can’t discuss further due to spoilers) needed more work, more depth. The way it was filmed, the setting and the visuals were excellent and made the film very intimate, which can be a huge advantage for a horror film.
I think it’s worth a look if you like simple creepy imagery, and a tense and claustrophobic horror/thriller.
A US remake has been released this year and I am curious to see if it expands on this film, perhaps fixing some of the issues to be what this promised to be but didn’t quite deliver.