Review: The Silent House (2010)

Claiming to be based on a true story, The Silent House is a daring and captivating new Uruguayan horror film from director Gustavo Hernández.

The film focuses on Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father, Wilson (Gustavo Alonso), as they move into an empty house in order to renovate it in preparation for its impending sale.

The owner leaves them with only one instruction: don’t go upstairs. However, when they suddenly hear loud banging coming from the upper level, Wilson decides to disobey the order and goes up to see what is going on. Laura is left on her own, waiting for her father to re-emerge.

Supposedly shot in a single take, Hernández uses this relatively unusual technique to his advantage, establishing a sinister, troubling atmosphere from the offset and allowing that to escalate and and expand in an inspired, torrid way as the narrative progresses. However, it comes with its own innate problems. Mistakes, such as the other people on set being glimpsed in reflections, damage the carefully constructed atmosphere and pull you out of the experience.

Nevertheless, bumps, groans and hide-behind-your-pillow shocks, all superbly shot and executed through a darkly lit handheld mini-cam, make The Silent House one hell of a thrill ride, managing to keep the audience engaged and jittery throughout – something that hasn’t been achieved this exquisitely since the original Paranormal Activity invaded our cinemas.

We are given enough of the characters’ background to be able to fully emote and empathise with them, but the actors, Colucci and Alonso, aren’t experienced enough to maintain the level of dedication and skill needed to carry a film of this nature.

That said, The Silent House isn’t a character piece, and shouldn’t be judged too harshly for its lack of character development and shoddy acting.

Admittedly, the paradoxical ineffectiveness of the way the film is shot makes it clear the events that take place are theatrical, and the ending is perhaps a little too ambiguous for its own good, but The Silent House is nothing short of a bold, ingeniously executed and genuinely terrifying tour de force. Seek it out.

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