Monday, August 2, 2010

MIFF 2010 Review: The Silent House

The Silent House
Dir. Gustavo Hernández
Year: 2010
Aus Rating: TBC
Running Time: 79mins

Sometimes seeing a movie at a film festival can provide viewers with the chance of hearing from the people who made it. They can provide insight and give a perspective of how hard it truly is to make a movie in a time when the fate of many hangs perilously on the whim of a few people. One thumb down and years of your life can go down the drain. I recently walked out on Clara Law's new film Like a Dream - for reasons including the quality and my own inability to stay awake after a day of work, so you won't be seeing a review of that popping up - but I didn't feel the urge to seek her out and spit in her face. I imagine if Uruguayan director Gustavo Hernández had have been in the vicinity of the screening of The Silent House that I attended then I very well may have done just that.

The first film from Uruguay that I have ever seen and it is not an auspicious start. Receiving its fair share of press for its gimmick of being filmed in real time in "one take" - although that credit seems dubious at best due to the number of scenes of pitch darkness - and for a decent amount of its running time it manages to do exactly what it should have been aiming for. A lot of creepiness alongside several big frights - one involving a Polaroid camera is particularly jump-out-of-your-seat worthy - alongside numerous nods to well-serving movie clichés. Yes, things go bump in the night, the camera lingers on mirrors just a fraction too long, ominous ghostly children appear and so on. What I wasn't betting on, however, was the absurdity of the final act that undoes all the good work that came before.

The Silent House stars Florencia Colucci as "Laura" and Gustavo Alonso as her father, both of whom arrive at the run down country cottage of a local acquaintance (Abel Tripaldi) in order to fix it up and make it suitable for sale. Cue nightfall and scary noises coming from upstairs. What follows is scary and tense and a little bit stupid. These characters certainly belong in a scary movie, I'll grant them that. They go upstairs when they're explicitly warned not to, they investigate noises that they know they shouldn't, they go up the stairs when they should be going out the front door (it's insulting) and, here's a tip, if you discover a girl screaming and covered in the blood standing in the middle of the road DON'T return to where she came from and definitely DON'T go inside and investigate for yourself. You're just asking for trouble.

Of course director Gustavo Hernández and screenwriter Oscar Estévez have other things on their mind and pull a twist so farcical and absurd out of thin air that it beggars belief. And not only that, but they steal this ridiculous twist from ANOTHER MOVIE that also failed due to the absurdity of its twist. Who do these people think they are? I am sure the filmmakers would say it was supposed to pull the rug out from under the viewer or that it is a statement on how the Uruguay government mistreated its residents during some war in the 1950s (horror movie directors have been pulling that trick since the 1950s, it ain't original), but whatever it was meant to be about it's stupid and even insulting. I wasted 80 minutes on a movie that was so willing to mock its audience. If Gustavo Hernández had've been there that night I would've given him a piece of my mind. Screw him and his movie. D-


Joel said...

Yeah i HATED that ending. I was going with it for most of the run time, even loved that whole gimmicky polaroid flash part, but much like that other film you're referring to, the twist ruined the whole film.

Glenn Dunks said...

The polaroid flash bit was the best part! Like, you knew what was coming but it still worked, which I think the mark of a good scare.

Alas, yes, we seem to be both on the same page re what movie Silent House steals from. Or, I hope we are. I don't wanna say it lest I ruin it for others. Undid all the good work that came before it.

Jacob said...

I agree the narrative theams were a bit messy and crude but when it came to creating that tense atmosphere it really worked. a huge number of horror films do this however lack plot but have grate shock value. it was good fun and at the festival I saw it out there was a huge cry of laughter as she started heading back to the house.