The Silent House - Blu-ray Review

'The film eventually falls down due to its lack of story depth around the central idea that being in a house where strange things happen is a little bit scary and/or fatal'

I suspect far fewer people would have seen a near-silent, Uruguayan, low-budget, horror film had it not been for the fact that The Silent House features the fairly unique trick of being filmed in one long continuous take. Gustavo Hernández' film is a technical marvel, produced for a reported $6,000 on a high-definition camera in a single ramshackle location (the silent house of the title). The lighting is fantastic, the Blu-ray transfer is stunning and the co-ordination required must have been epic. There's a simple joy here in watching Hernández take his concept and, for the most part, run with it successfully, the only technical element that doesn't work here being the rather hokey score.

Cynics might dismiss the much talked-up filming choice as a marketing ploy (the film's tagline is: 'Real Fear In Real Time') but if Hernández really intended it only as such then it must go down as a pretty impressive piece of foresight. Beyond being a marketeer's wet dream, the technique obviously makes a distinct impression on the artistic elements of the film. Shot by a single cameraman with a handheld camera, following lead Florencia Colucci around the house, The Silent House feels claustrophobic and grotty. We're constantly right next to Colucci as she examines shelves and peers round doors and because of that some of the scares - which are mainly of the 'that item/person/weapon/jumpy thing wasn't there a moment ago' variety - are easy to see coming.

That said, the fact that you can see them coming from a mile away often doesn't make them less terrifying. The entire middle section of the film (roughly an hour of its eighty-six minute run time) is a full on piece of expert horror tension as Colucci's character examines decrepit area after decrepit area. Just like in The Orphanage (which thematically this loosely resembles) there are standout scenes which you'll remember. One, involving a Polaroid camera, is exquisite, possibly the best horror scene of the year, whilst another, shot a short distance away from the house, is evocative and haunting.

The film eventually falls down due to its lack of story depth, its lack of 'padding', around the central idea that being in a house where strange things happen is a little bit scary and/or fatal. The opening would have benefited from a cut or two (for brevity's sake the characters lie down to sleep for all of two minutes) and the end, frankly, struggles to make any sort of sense. The tension evaporates with ten minutes left to go and the final segment is spent further explaining what just happened, like a poor comedian repeating his sub-standard punchline. All this is a shame because it threatens to make the effective middle a tad pointless. Like the jumps that you can see coming though, a lack of coherent storytelling doesn't mean that the scary bits aren't scary. They are. And, on the whole, they make The Silent House well worth a visit from both horror fans and those whose curiosity is mainly technical in nature.

The Silent House is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK on Monday 1st August.

Look further...

'aside from a couple of effective jumps in the virtuoso dialogue-free mid-section, the cleverness of the real-time filming insulates against real terror' - Kinnemaniac

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