Silent House, The (2010)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2012-03-02 00:53
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Written by: Oscar Estťvez (screenplay), Gustavo HernŠndez (story), Gustavo Rojo (story)
Directed by: Gustavo HernŠndez
Starring: Florencia Colucci, Abel Tripaldi and Gustavo Alonso


Reviewed by: Brett Gallman




Real Fear In Real Time


The Silent House is a film that reminds us that a directorís greatest weapon is their camera, and it accomplishes this largely in the absence of cinemaís most deceptive tool: editing. Presented in one continuous take, this import from Uruguay rarely blinks as it takes a tired genre (the home invasion thriller) and delivers it with swerving ferocity, with its fluidity doing its best to transcend its gimmickry. Despite its direct minimalism, The Silent House opens up questions of voyeurism and lens objectivity in deceptively clever fashion.

The film opens with a modicum of setup, immediately placing the camera behind Laura (Florencia Colucci), who wanders in from a field to join her father (Gustavo Alonso) and his friend, Nestor (Abel Tripaldi). Since the latter has put his house up on the market, theyíve all joined to repair it, with the father and daughter deciding to stay overnight (despite a lack of electricity). Once night falls, Laura begins to hear strange noises that may be emanating from within the house, which sends her skulking about in search of the possible intruder.




If your first reaction there is to ask why she doesnít just leave the house in the first place (and this is something you will probably ask multiple times), fret not--it eventually makes sense. In fact, this is one of the movieís better tricks, as it seemingly senses what audiences might be expecting, and it sometimes even comes dangerously close to cheating. Since weíre following Laura from the beginning, her character almost automatically engenders some sort of trust in the audience; however, this is somewhat contrary to the filmís shooting style, which sub-consciously registers as being completely objective. I would stop short of saying it does outright cheat; instead, itís much more apt to say that The Silent House preys on such expectations with its faux-verite approach.

Such a term is an obvious contradiction, but Gustavo HernŠndezís style falls somewhere between found footage and a more traditional cinematic experience. The film is obviously lensed from an objective position, plus the film is sparsely scored with moodily-clanking keys to manipulate audiences; however, the guerrilla nature of the shoot subtly tricks us into some assumptions about the ďrealityĒ of what weíre seeing. Thereís something a little discordant about how this suddenly becomes a psychological thriller; though it has a home invasion setup that would impact on a purely visceral level, The Silent House veers into more cerebral territory--suddenly, not only find yourself questioning just whatís being seen (particularly when spectral little girls pop up), but also distance between the lens and Lauraís character. Itís obviously not told from her point-of-view, but is slowly begins to feel like it is.

Beneath all of this lies a pretty standard horror movie relayed with undeniable precision; thereís a reason we often marvel at long takes, so when itís taken to this extreme degree, itís all the more impressive (even though there are some moments where cuts are cleverly hidden). While the actors' performances are solidly believable, but the real star is HernŠndezís camera, which slinks and skulks about the house; since obvious cuts aren't an option to hide certain information, he simply takes the camera and lets it hang out in doorways while the action happens off-screen. Such tactics seem to be a bit obvious, but you can almost feel yourself being toyed with. Sometimes, youíre privy to certain information, sometimes not, but HernŠndez parcels out just enough creepy imagery to draw out an interesting mystery.

Itís ultimately a mystery with a fairly unsurprising reveal; at this point, the only thing that might be more worn out than home invasions are the twist that eventually happens here, but the way it works in conjunction with the approach is fresh in its trickiness. Without its impressive style, The Silent House no doubt would have been consigned to the same pile of average movies with similar twists. As a straightforward thriller, itís fuelled by a fair amount of intensity once it ramps up; this is no doubt a slow burn, and the minimum amount of character introduction had me wondering if I even cared as this girl crept through this admittedly spooky house. Suddenly, though, there was a chair-jumper about 45 minutes into it, and we were off and running.

While Iím much more interested in the extra-textual stuff that its style caused me to ponder, The Silent House is a fine gimmick thriller that roves with ease before trailing off into a haunting, sad-place (that youíll need to sit through the credits for--this might be the longest post-credits coda Iíve ever seen). I'm not exactly sure what the impending U.S. remake will have to offer aside from letting us watch Elizabeth Olsen go nuts, but that sounds like as good an excuse for any. In the meantime, check out the original on IFCís DVD, which is solid enough--the presentation is fine, with the 5.1 soundtrack being especially impressive, but fans of special features will be dismayed to find a lone trailer. This one is definitely worth a look for the technical prowess alone, so Buy it!



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