Tuesday, June 21, 2011
The Silent House -- aka La Casa Muda (2010)
Described as being filmed in one continuous shot (no edits or cut aways), with a tagline of 'Fear in Real Time' and with a well cut trailer that piqued my interest, The Silent House got thrown onto my 'must see' list for the year. The claim of one continuous shot is an interesting one (I mean, who could deny such a claim if you were at all involved with the production?). It did feel as though it made no error in what it wanted to do filming-wise as it sweeps and zooms around certain characters and also in the mirroring of their body movements and flow as they explore a house that isn't quite right. Along with some really great use of shadows and sound, The Silent House is a uniquely produced film but one that ultimately falls flat.
We are introduced to an old man and his daughter as they walk through a country field and out to a cottage in the middle of Nowheresville. We learn, as they briefly meet with the owner of the house who's looking to sell it, that they are there to renovate over the next few days. After speaking with him, they head inside and find the house dark and boarded up. They settle in, take brief residence in the study, and make plans to start early the next morning. They have no idea that they won't make it through the night.
As the young woman gets ready for bedtime, and dad has already dozed off, she starts hearing strange noises coming from the room above them. Dad initially shoos her away when she wakes him up but he gets concerned after she does so a second time after hearing even louder noises. He gets up and cruises upstairs to learn the cause of his daughter's fear. From the room below, she hears a struggle and a subsequent yell and thud as daddy hits the floor. Freaked out, she makes a dash to the front door but finds it locked. After hearing some children's music playing from upstairs and investigating it only to find no one, she comes back downstairs and into the study. She finds dad bound at the hands with blood covering his face.
Frantic and trying to find a way out, she explores the rest of the house with her trusty neon lantern. What plays to such great effect in these moments is that she comes across antique mirrors and pictures and as she does, you expect to see something in the reflection or behind her but you don't. You're constantly thinking 'What is it?' in the home and what has done this horrible thing to her father. After heading into the attic, she hears footsteps and quickly finds a hiding place. She sees someone enter with a knife and stays in her spot until he leaves. She makes her way back downstairs and this time, heads out an unlocked front door into the woods.
Thankfully, she runs into the owner of the home as he's driving along the country dirt road. But he assures her that all is right and that no one is in the home. Despite her hysterics, they head back to it. After arrival, the owner walks inside while the woman nervously waits inside the car. He looks around and comes back out to tell her that no one is there. He leads her back into the house and she takes him to the study where her father's body was, only they find nothing there. After exploring the darkened house some more, they get separated and the young woman's light goes out in her lantern. She grabs a Polaroid camera and uses the flash to find her way out of the room as she's screaming and frantically trying to find a way out. The best scare in the film comes as the camera flash goes off for the second or third time and we see a little girl in the room.
At this point, I was sucked in, hook, line and sinker. But how does it go so horribly wrong? So our young woman, as she gets out of the room and begins to explore the house some more learns about the family that used to live there. The reveal of what happened there and how she's mixed up in it all, well, it hit with a big, resounding thud. I don't want to get into it too much. I will say that it's very High Tension-like in the revealing. That's all I'll say.
Even though it has a creepy and intense atmosphere and one of the best scares employed in any film I've seen this year, The Silent House is OK when it could have been really great. The ending completely killed it for me. I mean, you can definitely do a lot worse. But this is one I won't find myself revisiting anytime soon.
Cortez the Killer