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Horror: The Silent House

I don’t profess to be as hard as nails in any respect, so when I say that horror movies don’t scare me I’m not trying to sound all badass. The fact is that I enjoy the hell out of a good horror movie. The closer I get to the edge of my seat the more I enjoy them. The more knots my stomach is twisted into the better the experience. The horror movies I enjoy the most are the ones that have me invested in the characters so heavily that I actively DO NOT want to see them killed off, no matter how ingenious the fashion!

Sadly, movies which provoke that kind of emotional response are few and far between these days. It’s not that I wish ill upon anyone — fictitious or other wise — but often I grow evermore delighted by the passing of each character in a horror film. Not because I’m a blood thirsty ghoul, but because the sooner the complete roster has been decapitated, eviscerated, flayed, spayed, neutered, and/or shot to death, the sooner the movie is over. As a general observation I find it almost impossible to care for the characters in most modern horror films, mostly because so little time is spent getting me invested in those characters. Yes, the characters in horror films are the victims; not because they end up in small zip-lock bags, but because they are given no development and so we care very little when they do (end up in those zip-lock bags). No, it seems that now days even horror films with the most A-grade of budgets are comfortable with presenting B-grade stories.

And then, just to contradict everything I’ve come to believe about modern horror movies, along comes the spanish language horror [sporror] flick, THE SILENT HOUSE. I’ll sum this up as quickly as I can: There’s virtually no character development of note in this movie. There’s very little set up, outside of the classic “people arrive at an isolated location and the shit hits the fan” premise that we’ve seen a million times before. They even go so far as to add — for anyone gullible enough to believe such things — that the film is based on actual events. It’s all very cringe-worthy on paper, but the clincher is… it actually works.

This movie was made for around $9000 and it shows. It’s not the highest quality footage that you’re ever going to see. In fact, you wouldn’t have to try very hard to convince me that the thing was shot using a mobile phone, or one of those flip camera things that never seem to be able to deliver the kind of video quality they promise. But, it works. It didn’t take long at all before the film snob in me stopped chortling at the blocky artefacts in the footage and started hooking into the popcorn and vying for the place on the couch usually reserved for the side of me who’ll watch any old garbage.

The other hook this film uses is that all 80 minutes of it was shot in one continuous take. Of course you can do anything with film these days, so it wouldn’t have been hard to disguise an edit or two, but in the end who cares if they pulled that aspect of the film off or not? It looks like they did, and that’s all that really matters.

Surprisingly, rather than be a distraction, the continuous shot really does work to immerse you in the story, helped in large part by the performance of the young Spanish actress Florencia Colucci, who hardly misses a beat. This film is Colucci’s only film credit — her IMDB page consists only of a link to The Silent House’s IMDB page — however she manages to produce a performance which is captivating enough to keep you interested, despite the lack of everything else usually required by a movie to do so.

The Silent House does manage some frights, but if I’m being completely honest they’re cheap scares more than clever thrills. While the film doesn’t break any new ground it does do something that a lot of much higher budgeted movies can’t do: Engage the viewer. How it does this is something of a mystery, because it really doesn’t give you any reason to care. Best guess is that it’s the combination of Colucci’s performance, some very nice Cinematography by Pedro Luque (considering the restraints of the whole ‘single shot’ concept) and some simple movie tricks combine to make The Silent House an effective horror. [source] [trailer]

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1 Comment

    I suspect that the obvious effort and care that went into the film, though it’s a low-key story made in a low-key way, is a lot of what makes it so engaging – not so much the story but the people behind it.

    One of the more memorably bland horror movies I’ve seen recently (and this is “bland” to the point that I was writing a running commentary on my friend’s ancient phone just so I wouldn’t have to pay attention) was “The Strangers”, which had a similar plot – isolated location, cheap scares – but didn’t do anything even vaguely interesting with the much larger budget. Visually, it looked like a B-movie rom-com with a bit more blood, and all around it felt like the director wasn’t trying.

    With “Silent House,” it’s modest, yeah, but between a one-off actress who cared enough to do a very good job and a director who was interested enough in film to say not only “hey, let’s make a feature with a $9000 budget” but also “wait, hey, let’s do something very stylized with the cinematography, because if we’re gonna do this let’s do it properly” – well, it’s obvious throughout the film that *they* care, and because of that the viewer cares too.