13 November 2011

Ally's Review: The Silent House

Ah the horror movie twist. So tempting for directors to add one in the hope of taking their movie to the next level, and yet an almost impossibly difficult manoeuvre to pull off. If you fail, you end up destroying all that went before it. It's a high risk/ high reward kind of game. You'd like to think that a movie twist would be discussed amongst the actors and crew, or even stopped after the rough cut is seen, in the hope that a movie isn't unnecessarily ruined. I suppose I can kind of see why the gamble is worth taking, if you know that without a twist your movie is not particularly memorable. But what if you have an excellent movie for 90% of the running time? Do you need a twist? Maybe it's just better to land the plane safely…

I thought I'd already come across the worst movie twist - and the most disappointing ending to a horror film - that I'd ever have to witness when I watched Switchblade Romance. For those who haven't seen it; for almost all the movie you are watching a brilliantly fresh take on the slasher genre… and then a twist happens that is completely nonsensical. It leaves you feeling angry and saps all of its accumulated goodwill (and good review that I had planned). I never thought I'd see a movie blow up like that again. Unfortunately, I hadn't banked on Gustavo Hernandez's inner saboteur.

Up until the 65 minute mark I was all set to place this film alongside the best (and scariest) horror films of the last decade. There have been few films that I have been more on edge watching. I can't lie, I spent the majority of the film watching it through my fingers (which meant I missed quite a few of the scares). There is some real brilliance on display in this film. It has garnered a lot of attention because it was filmed in one single take, which is a really astonishing achievement. I'm not sure how they did it, I presume an unbelievable amount of planning.

The film is superbly lit, the house is so dark and everything we see is by a horrible light that the main actress carries around. It means that you are constantly expecting to bump into some horrible thing at any moment. Everything that makes a film uneasy to watch, every technique and trick, is used here in a fresh and innovative way. For me, this was the hardest watch at horror club since The House of the Devil in the 2009/10 season. Up until the 65 minute mark I could find no real fault with this movie, and it was going to launch into my top 5 scariest movie list…

… and then came the twist. I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to see it. But just like Switchblade Romance, the twist makes no sense whatsoever and completely destroys the tension and plaudits in literally five seconds. It was amazing the difference in the three of us as this unfolded. We could have been watching big brother for all the interest that was paid after the twist was revealed. I could go on and on about how the twist doesn't make any sense whatsoever, but I'd have to care to do that. I completely lost any interest in this film after it. Maybe it's because all my anger about bad movie twists was exhausted on hating Switchblade Romance. This twist is worse: it makes even less sense and the fall from greatness is steeper. It's a real shame - you just wish someone had a quiet word in Hernandez's ear and explained to him that he had a film that was incredibly scary AND original (due to the way it was shot), and therefore it didn't need a twist of any sort.

This film is worth seeing by any budding horror directors as a cautionary tale about the dangers of being too ambitious. A good horror film doesn't need a 180 degree twist to make it memorable. If you can sustain tension, frights and wrap the film up solidly then you've got everything you need to make a great horror film. Not every twist can be Keyser Soze.

Such a waste of a good film.

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