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THE SILENT HOUSE (opening theatrically at New York City’s
IFC Center today and hitting VOD May 11) has an admirable aim. Through one
continuous take, it leads the audience down a singular path with Laura (Florencia
Colucci), discovering the secrets and evils of a possibly haunted rural
Uruguyan home as she does. It’s an admirable gambit, but not quite
successful—as in, it ruins the film.
SILENT HOUSE (a.k.a. LA CASA MUDA) opens with the arrival of
Laura and her father Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) at the titular home, an abode once
inhabited by family friend Nestor (he “lives in the city now,” that posh
bastard) that needs to be cleaned and prepared for new owners. Tasked with
getting the wildly messy interior into shape, Laura is soon distracted by
strange noises from outside and upstairs (where they’ve been warned not to go)
and her tour of the Silent House begins.
What’s disappointing is that beyond being an eye-catching
approach, THE SILENT HOUSE never truly justifies its shooting style. As the
picture ramps up in the first and second acts, the long, unbroken shots do
create a funhouse effect of wondering what’s behind each corner and dwelling in
darkness in each room, but even that dwindles. Whereas IFC’s upcoming KIDNAPPED
utilizes intricately choreographed long takes to bring the audience face to
face with its action in a visceral and unsettling manner, THE SILENT HOUSE
never feels as well-thought-out. It can be argued that it shouldn’t, that
Laura’s journey should feel chaotic, spooky and spontaneous, but that isn’t
truly achieved either. Sequences of her senseless wandering lack nervous
apprehension. Instead, there’s just boringly waiting for something to happen.
The moments of fright that do occur are conveyed very well, but it’s hard to
escape the feeling that in making his specific stylistic choice, director
Gustavo Hernandez has bypassed one of the strongest tools of film—editing, with
could’ve been made the more uninspiring stretches quietly creepy or atmospheric.
Despite its none-too-endearing photography (the film is
shrouded in the murky, ugly and distracting blackness that comes with shooting
digital in the dark), THE SILENT HOUSE would be easily tipped in favor of the
aspects that work if its major climax and reveal didn’t so utterly undercut
what comes before. It incorporates a major narrative flaw that’s gaping and
impossible to forgive—and, sadly, is directly the fault of the one-take
approach that has previously been so intriguing.
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