Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
A visually stunning horror film, with a horrifically dull ending, “The Silent House” is a little film out of Uruguay making a big splash in the foreign horror market; and is truly the closest example of Hitchcockian type suspense, that most American horror films of this same type (Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield, The Blair Witch Project) strive for but hardly achieve. Director Gustavo Hernandez (claiming to have filmed this entire movie in one long take) does a masterful job here, in what has to be one of the most interesting directing jobs (next to [Rec]) to come out of this new age of video camera/faux horror documentaries. “The Silent House” is based on a “true story” that happened in the late forties in a small village in Uruguay. The story follows a father and daughter (Laura) who are hired to make some repairs on a two story cottage (in the middle of nowhere of course). But on the first night, when Laura hears odd noises coming from the upstairs bedroom, she soon discovers that this cottage holds a dark and rather bloody secret. But is the cottage the only thing that is hiding a secret?
What defines a good horror film?: Have you ever seen a scary movie where the suspense in a scene was so great that you wanted whatever was hiding and waiting to jump out to do it already, simply to allow you some relief from the knot of anticipation that was slowly tightening up in your stomach? Well “The Silent House” is an entire move like that (well except for the ending, which I will mention throughout this review, is very DISAPOINTING). Every time Laura passes by a mirror you expect a face to manifest and every time she opens a door you expect a monster (for lack of a better term) to be standing there. In fact, at times it resembles almost a video game-esque horror RPG in a weird, Silent Hill (the video game not the crappy movie), sort of way, with haunting music and everything. Furthermore, in a stroke of genius, the director makes the only source of light a lantern which Laura holds throughout the film, which by default becomes our only source of visibility. That move alone seemed to compound the eeriness of the film tenfold because with the lack of light surrounding Laura (and the audience) all of the manifestations created by our minds seem to lurk in the darkness.
Upon its release this film was heavily criticized on two accounts:
1. Some critics thought “The Silent House” was too slow. The truth is that “The Silent House” is literally around eighty-six minutes of the camera following the daughter’s every second as she attempts to find out what violent secret this cottage is holding. And as the tagline reads, “Real Fear in real time”, so know what you are in for. Now to defend this aspect, what some audiences would call slow is what I call suspenseful (in this director’s hands especially). So, if you are used to speed driven Slashers, where a man with a chainsaw cuts a defenseless woman up into twenty itty bitty pieces before she hits the ground, then “The Silent House” isn’t for you. It has more of that slow, creeping across your skin tension, that works more the less you actually see.
2. Many people had a huge problem with the director’s claims that his film was shot all in one take; so much so that many critics disregarded the fact that “The Silent House” is one of the best horror movies of the year. Here is my take: Hernandez is a masterful director that constructs some great camera shots which create one of the most suspenseful atmospheres I had seen in a while, but is it all done in one take? Probably not. But those who are criticizing this film for its “long take” claim, need to get over it already and give “The Silent House” and Hernandez the credit that he deserves, and (with this film alone) put him up there with some of the great Latin horror directors of today, such as Jaume Balaguero and Guillermo del Toro.
As for the ending: Sorry to have to mention it again, but the ending is what ultimately does this movie in. It is not only VERY disappointing, but also confusing. “The Silent House” is a film that advertises itself as a straight up haunted house/ horror flick, when, in the end, it turns into a below average mystery, which adds to the disappointment. Usually (being a reputable film reviewer) I try not to let the ending of a film determine the outcome my entire film experience. I try to take into account the acting and the camera work and the editing and cinematography; BUT in this case I had to make an exception. Truthfully the ending of “The Silent House” is such a let down that it actually moved my rating from a four star (strong recommendation) down to a three star rating (slight recommendation), but boy, the ride getting to the end was still a lot of suspenseful fun!
Final Thought: This was a hard movie to critique because it was such a great horror film, but the ending…well you know the rest. But here is what I will commend Hernandez for. What he is attempting and very successful in doing with “The Silent House” is presenting a horror film completely stripped of the Hollywood violence and other cliché gimmicks that current North American horror is notorious for (like unnecessary teenage sex). And basically what that does is create a state of raw fear that exudes suspense in its purest form on the screen; doing it for much of the film. In the end, “The Silent House” is worth renting, if you are a fan of scary movies, for the initial creepy feel that this film is sure to create because of some fantastic directing. This is also a must see for every film student, whether you are a skeptic and think this film is laced with invisible editing or accept that it is mostly one long take.
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