The Silent House (2010)
The Silent House (La Casa Muda) takes a very traditional haunted house story and develops it in a distinctly postmodern fashion. This Uruguayan horror film hinges on the concept of the entire film being shot in one take. Hence the tag line of “real fear in real time”. This takes the recent trend of filming with handheld digital cameras one step further, in an attempt to outdo the likes of Paranormal Activity and its subsequent sequel. It certainly creates a minimalist feel to the proceedings, similar to the myriad of supernatural reality shows that are currently popular on TV. By using the medium of digital cameras, smart phones and internet searches, the movies initially manages to sustain an authentic atmosphere. However, as the narrative proceeds the films flaws become more apparent.
The plot is simple and revolves around Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) while they endeavour to renovate an old family home to prepare it for sale. Vacant and derelict, the house has no utilities, forcing them to rely on battery-operated lanterns to light their way. Laura becomes separated and soon finds she is trapped inside the house, with no contact with the outside world. It soon becomes clear that leaving may not be as easy as thought and that a supernatural presence is behind events. Director Gustavo Hernandez has technically constructed a competent production that certainly benefits from being set outside of the US. Minor cultural differences and references add an interesting veneer to a common place plot device and make it at first more palatable. However, once the initial premise has been set, the film fails to be anything more than be a series of well-executed set piece and never truly frightens in the manner the advertising suggests.
This seems to be the main problem with some contemporary horror cinema. It has lost the ability to illicit an emotional response from the viewer by the exploration of difficult themes and concepts. Instead those making the movies seem a little too focused on crafting a technical rollercoaster ride at the expense of character and emotional investment. Thus, with The Silent House we are simply subject to frequent acts of misdirection followed by an obligatory “boo” moment. It has been a substantial amount of time since I have seen a film that I found genuinely disturbing or suspenseful. I was hoping that this more obscure production would yield better results, but sadly it was not to be. What remains is a interesting international curiosity that squanders it's premise. The US remake that followed a year later maintains the same failings.