Silent House, The

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 02/29/12 21:05:09

"Liar, liar, pants on fire."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

This Uruguayan horror has been released with two unique selling points - but don't hold your breath that either of them hold up to much scrutiny.

Laura (Florencia Colucci) is a teenage girl who has agreed to help her father (Gustavo Alonso) renovate an old cottage isolated deep in the country, as its owners are wanting to sell it as soon as possible.

Tired after the long journey, her father decides to take a nap before starting which is when Laura starts to hear strange bangings and rattlings from somewhere else in the cottage. Waking her father, he investigates but falls victim to someone or something that is hiding in the cottage and now has Laura in its sights.

The essential set-up is nothing out of the ordinary, but the way that director Gustavo Hernandez has tried to spin it is. Firstly, it's claimed to be based upon a true story that occurred in the 1940s and secondly - and more interestingly - it's also claimed to be all shot in one single, unbroken 90 minute take. Both these claims don't really need stand up to any scrutiny, however.

The first claim is easier to be dealt with, as a cursory search reveals that there's no way to verify the truth of this. Maybe it did, maybe it didn't, but even if it did, it's such a standard, unremarkable horror background that trying to convince everyone it's a true story seems a little desperate and just plain odd. The second claim is a little trickier. It certainly starts off convincingly, the camera patiently jogging behind Laura and her father as they investigate the cottage, and it's a conceit that could work, as Hitchcock so nearly did with Rope.

But it quickly becomes clear that the whole film is a cheat, as not only are there are numerous sequences where the camera whips round so quickly that a sneaky edit could be put it, but there's also one sequence set entirely in pitch black. Again, maybe it is all in one take, maybe it isn't, but frankly, I'm far from convinced that the film is the technical marvel it's being hyped up as.

So, is the fact that Hernandez chancing his arm and possibly being duplicitous enough to damn the film? Not really, if it was any good, I'd probably applaud and be charmed by his Barnum-esque chutzpah, but the fact of the matter is that, all in one take or not, the film is just not very good at all and the two shouts of what make this film so unique just give off the feeling of trying to distract everyone from the basic inadequacies in it.

As stated before, it's just not terribly original and Hernandez does little with it to distinguish it from a hundred other slasher films where a single character is menaced in isolation. The long, unblinking stare of the camera does rustle up some foreboding menace in the opening stretch, and the afore-mentioned scene of pitch blackness - illuminated only by Laura desperately using the flashbulb of a camera over and over again - ironically becomes the highlight of the film. You can predict what's going to happen in that scene, but it's no less effective because of it.

Other than that, it resorts to obvious bus scares, ghostly children flitting about in the background, loud musical stings and every other attempt to make you jump that you've seen done better countless times. Colucci is also an irritating heroine, her constant sniffling becoming enormously distracting when you should really be rooting for her to make it out of the cottage alive.

But what really sinks the film is the twist in the final ten minutes that renders everything before it baffling and incomprehensible - but in the irksome way, not the disturbing and creepy way. It's yet another moment that makes you doubt the veracity of the "It's a true story!" claim and feels like one more desperate move by Hernandez to give the material more attention than it deserves.

It's the rare case where the upcoming Hollywood remake might just improve upon the foreign original.

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