The Silent House

Turns out 'silent' was something of a misnomer

This high-concept horror movie claims to offer ‘real fear in real time’ due to its unique selling point: it was filmed in a single 72-minute take. Whether this is strictly true has been the subject of a somewhat trivial debate; ultimately, the fact that it appears continuous is all that matters to the fiction. It’s an ambitious approach – both in a technical sense and, more crucially, because the danger of gimmickry lurks around every corner as ominously as any bump in the dark.

Our location is an abandoned, boarded-up country house which father and daughter Wilson and Laura have agreed to help convert into saleable condition. Soon enough, strange noises begin and when Wilson goes upstairs to investigate, it’s fairly clear he won’t be coming down again. These early stages are promising, and it feels as if director Gustavo Hernández is perhaps wryly ticking off horror conventions with a view to moving onto something more interesting – a glimpse of some cobwebs, Laura’s quick inspection of the phone (not working) or her half-hearted rattling of some doors (all locked).

But that something never develops, and what we end up with is well-made, pretty bog-standard horror fare. One moment, when a hand seems to emerge from the camera and touch Laura’s shoulder, genuinely made me jump. There’s also a clever sequence with Polaroid flashes, probably inspired by the (underrated) original Saw. Then, sadly, there’s an ending that’s both convoluted and far too close to ‘it was all a dream’ to avoid cheapening the previous hour, leaving the audience feeling short-changed.

As for that single shot – the main outcome was that I felt trapped. In the film’s strongest moments this added successfully to the claustrophobia; at other times, the same effect meant the action was somewhat plodding and predictable. Not game-changing, then – but it needed to be, since plot and character development were so lacking. An interesting formal experiment, but nothing more.

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2 Responses to The Silent House

  1. Thomas Mansell says:

    “Rope” appeared to be shot in one continuous take too (and “Russian Ark” actually was (which seems almost impossible)). The polaroid flashes might also take inspiration from “Rear Window”.

    Hitchcock rules!

    • JamieR says:

      He does, doesn’t he? As a matter of fact we watched Rear Window only last night! What an nifty film. Polaroid flahses as delaying mechanism, ingenious.

      Russian Ark was already on the Love Film list; Rope has duly been added.

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