The Silent House (La casa muda) is apparently based on a true story that occurred in Uruguay during the 1940s. Filmed in one continuous take, the movie concerns Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) who are about to stay the night at an isolated house. They are there to help restore the house for their friend Nestor (Abel Tripaldi), who wishes to sell it. Boarded up, the interior of the house is dark, dank and very creepy. Having been warned by Nestor not to go upstairs, Laura and Wilson settle down for night. Unable to sleep, Laura hears noises coming from the outside and then inside from the upper floor. Afraid, Laura wakes her father and while he goes to investigate, Wilson leaves his daughter downstairs. When she hears what sounds like the inevitable struggle between her father and an unseen assailant, Laura rushes upstairs to find Wilson bloodied and dead. Alone and terrified, Laura explores the confines of the claustrophobic house, while trying to hide from her father’s killer. Having finally fled the house, we’re taken back into it when Nestor arrives with some food for Laura and Wilson. Taking her back into the house to find Wilson, the two are separated and yet again, Laura is left alone.
The problem with The Silent House is that up until the final twist, Laura’s strange insistence on remaining within the house and grounds makes no sense. Surely someone who is being stalked after in a dark, creepy house would flee screaming for the hills? And boy does Laura scream, gratingly so, embodying the oft seen one dimensional pretty girl found in most slasher horror films, though The Silent House isn’t a straight forward slasher film. However as I was watching it, it felt like the writers were not sure what it was either. Ghost story? Psychological horror? With glimpses of a long haired girl in white (aka The Ring‘s Samara/Sadako) and a flash of a mad man with a knife, it could’ve been any or all three. Even with the big reveal at the end of the film, I was left slightly confused as to the real story. Was it left ambiguous on purpose, or did the writers struggle to finish the story? As I can’t find any evidence of this being based on a true story either, I’d treat the marketing of The Silent House as the same as The Blair Witch Project. It sets the tone of story up as something tangibly real before viewing.
Having said all that, what I really enjoyed about The Silent House was the sense of dread that built up as the story progressed. The notion of “real fear in real time”, actually worked, as The Silent House focuses on the last seventy eight minutes of the story. I doubt that the directors and actors actually filmed this in one continuous take, however the notion and execution of this technique worked in the story’s favour. There’s quite a few obvious places where the editor could have spliced footage together given the house’s dark and unlit rooms. The lighting itself was only a few halogen lamps and a bunch of candles, which further adds to the sense of dread as we’re taken around the house with Laura.
Filmed on a shoestring budget, The Silent House is to be commended for its fresh take within the horror genre. The technical execution of the “continuous” filming is to be praised. While the story’s ending and Florencia Colucci’s acting lets it down to some degree, the film has some truly scary scenes. So despite its flaws, the sense of anxiety that it invokes and builds upon, sets The Silent House above your average horror flick.
The Silent House is out on DVD and Blu-ray 1st August 2011.