Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Silent House (2010) - Gustavo Hernández

Another day, another Spanish horror film must see. The reviews I'd skimmed through compared this to one of my favourite horror films of the past decade - Ils. Couple that with the fact that it appears to have been filmed in one take (a la Rope) and I'm there, ready for realistic heart attack moments. After all it's also based on a true story, (isn't everything nowadays?).

The premise is as simple as simple is, Laura and her dad are going to spend the next couple of days fixing up Nester's (friend of the family) house in the country. The house is in a right old state, with no electricity and all the windows boarded up as an extra bonus. The sort of thing you'd expect to see on a documentary about Brits buying homes in Spain in fact. 'Don't go upstairs', warns Nester before leaving them to it. When our duo hunker down for a bit of kip though Laura hears noises from upstairs, it would seem they are not alone in the house.

Right let's get this out the way right from the get go, I thought this was utter pants. What is it with Spanish horror and children? It seems the Spaniards have a real fear of their sprogs and regularly have them pop up in films such as this. It had it's moments, some of them good enough to make me jump even - such as an extended scene in the dark with only a Polaroid camera to illuminate the room (Rear Window anyone?). In general though I found myself tutting in disbelief at most of what was going on up the screen. By the time the films twist came along and all was revealed I was long past caring. The big reveal answered some of what was irritating me throughout the film, such as why the hell doesn't she kick her way out of a window and make like Roadrunner, but also annoyingly contradicted almost everything that had gone before. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

The Silent House isn't gorgeous to watch either, although the lighting is wonderfully handled, with the whole film appearing to be lit by a single lamp. The one take aspect is a decent idea, although of course it's a series of takes digitally stitched together. Traditionally long takes make the scene more intense, since edits and fancy camera moves only remove the audience from the 'realness' up on the screen. So for a horror film it feels like a no brainer technique to use, and you wonder why this hadn't been done before Gustavo Hernández had the brainwave to do it. However having said that it's impossible to sink into a film if the score keeps jumping up and down to warn you that something scarey is about to happen. In fact if you want to suck in the audience Hernández, then do away with the music totally. Especially since this film is cut from the same cloth as The Haunting and The Blair Witch Project, big on scares using sounds and sudden shocks and not so reliant on gore.

Anyone that knows a little of the language of cinema will be able to see the end twist coming a mile off. I'll just say think about what it means when a person is shown reflected in mirrors all the time (as in Black Swan for instance), and leave you to figure it out. I'd say this was worth seeing once if you really do have a thing for horror, but for the casual viewer it's probably best to leave well enough alone. Oh and the penchant for American remakes of foreign scare flicks continues unabated with this, it's already out there in fact, and hopefully will never fall in front of my eyes.

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