The definition of "horror" states that - in the context of cinema - for a film to qualify as a successful entry into this genre, it must unnerve and elicit both negative and positive (but mostly negative) emotions from the viewing audience. If this is true, then "The Silent House" is half a horror movie; momentarily, it scares and keeps the viewer on edge, waiting for whatever has the potential to inevitably happen to happen, but when regarding those emotions, I can't say it left me with too many positive ones. My theory is that no matter how violent or depressing the movie, one can derive happy thoughts from the experience so long as they find it thought-provoking. I say this because in all honesty, it feels pretty darn good to think; so long as all that thinking gets you somewhere, to a conclusion, perhaps. In the beginning, I wasn't sure what to think; in the middle, I was experiencing some of those "positive emotions"; and by the end, I was left with nothing but dark, cold, bitter cynicism.
My problem was this: the film has basically used a gimmick (it was supposedly shot in one continuous take, and it runs about 80 minutes in length) to hold my attention for the time that it demanded, instead of using an absorbing story and characters to draw me in. I'll admit that it's seldom boring, and it intrigued me from beginning to end (although that's precisely where I draw the line); but in trying to make the film as creepy and tense as possible, director Gustavo Hernandez also forget some key ingredients. "The Silent House" could have been such an effective little chiller - and for extended but underwhelming periods of time it kind of is - had it avoided the obstacles that were involved in its making. It almost feels as if there was no written screenplay, and that the ambition alone was supposed to carry the film. The filmmakers should not have so arrogantly assumed such a thing.
The premise is incredibly simple. Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Wilson (Gustavo Olonso) make way by foot to an old cottage that lies on secluded ground. They intend to fix it up within the next few days for a friend of dad, who intends to sell the house soon after they finish the job. The two get to the estate a little too late for their liking, and Wilson says they'll start up in the morning. However, they must set up camp downstairs for the time being, since the upstairs is deemed "unsafe" and "unstable". And so they settle down on the various chairs, with the blankets that have been provided, and they try to get some shut-eye. But a loud noise disturbs Laura, prompting her to ask Wilson to go check it out. Of course, it's coming from upstairs; and of course, that's just where Wilson goes. When yet another noise is heard and father does not return, Laura goes looking for him and gets way more than she bargained for.
Most of the film is devoted to Laura looking around in the dark, dark house with a particularly illuminating lamp and a scythe in hand. Something must have made that noise, and clearly it's looking to get nasty; Wilson is found dead and bleeding in no time, and we see apparitions (unseen to Laura) that could very well be his killer(s). It remains intriguing and engaging for a while, but soon gets repetitive and rather pointless. Certain scenes, such as the one where Laura happens upon strange paintings of people with literally "blank expressions", give the film some steam; but it fails to catch fire.
The film is an outstanding technical achievement for Hernandez and his team. The production was completed in four days, and while that makes me somewhat doubt the authenticity of the single-take claims that alone sell the film, it can still be considered a mastery of cinematic technology. It certainly had me fooled, even if it was nothing more than a gimmick. The cinematography is also gorgeous, particularly when Laura's lamp lights the way. Such a light gives off an image that lends the film a certain quality; it's almost surreal and otherworldly. I just wish such things had been put to better use, or perhaps in a better film. They might have worked exceptionally well had the film been one of paranormal and ghostly qualities, but the twist ending reveals a true intent that is anything but from beyond the grave. Maybe if this had been a ghost story in the end, I would have enjoyed it more. All-in-all, I did enjoy a good portion of it anyways; but the twist ruined the entire experience and made me feel as if I had just wasted my time.
Nevertheless, it's still worth seeing if you're as big a horror fan as I am. There are some aspects worth looking into here, although I'm afraid all goodness is drowned out by the bad and the sadly mediocre stuff that comes in between. There are genuine moments of suspense, some cleverly placed jump scares, and the visual atmosphere is gold; but as I said, there are some great materials and resources here that simply belong in a film of different qualities and themes. It doesn't help that the story is weak, the characters grossly under-developed (although the twist is supposed to sort of rectify that), and the pacing unfortunately uneven. I love a good, suspenseful horror film, but this isn't one. By the halfway point, I was hoping that it would silence itself before I would be provoked to silence it, by turning off the DVD Player.