Didn’t I say it would happen? Following its absence from cinemas for some time, since The Blair Witch Project first reduced us to shivering wrecks, way back in 1999, the POV/first-person horror flick is now back with a vengeance. Following [Rec] (2007) and [Rec] 2 (2009) by fear masters Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, Uruguayan director Gustavo Hernández, writer Oscar Estévez and cinematographer Pedro Luque have followed suit, this time with a new gimmick – La casa muda (The Silent House) (2010) is billed as the first horror to be filmed in a single continuous take.
In fact, there are other historical precedents for the technique – one of the most recent was historical drama Russian Ark (2002), but Hitchcock’s thriller Rope (1948) got there first and used a similar technique, but had to rely on actually shooting the film in ten takes, ranging from four-and-a-half to just over ten minutes’ duration, which was the maximum amount of film that a camera magazine or projector reel could hold. At the end of the takes, the camera zoomed into a dark object, blacking out the screen.
Anyway, in keeping with the hoary old ‘based on a true story’ shtick, Hernández’s film takes its inspiration from events that purportedly took place in a small village in Uruguay in the 1940s, in which two hideously mutilated bodies were found in an abandoned cottage. The Silent House finds teenager Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Winston (Gustavo Alonso) making their way to a rural area to do up a house for Nestor (Abel Tripaldi) who’s their friend and the property owner. Planning to begin work the next day, they settle down to sleep (with electricity absent, of course) by candlelight, before weird sounds begin to assail them from above – things are about to get really scary…
And, thankfully, they by and large do – Hernandez’s central gimmick is very well used from the outset, creating a real sense of foreboding that’s distinctly at odds with viewers’ comfort-zone expectations of the multiple cuts normally associated with horror, and the director is skillful enough to inject real creativity into proceedings as the terrors deepen.
The ending may provoke some complaints (note – do not leave before the end of the credits), and there is perhaps the sense that this was building, as is so frequently the case with the genre, to frights that it could not possibly deliver on, but it is still very much an example of that rarest breed of films, namely an intelligent, riveting horror. You have been warned.
86 mins. In Spanish.