14 November 2011

Clarky's Review: The Silent House


An open letter to any filmmakers considering a twist ending


That is all.

Yours sincerely

Stuart Clark

I remember when twist endings were cutting edge, it was round about November 1999 when The Sixth Sense was released and it ended sometime in 2000. Where in The Sixth Sense M Night Shyamalan pulled the rug from under our feet and left us reeling, Gustavo Hernandez leaves us reeling for other reasons here.

The Sixth Sense worked so well as it hadn't been done for a while and when the twist was revealed it went back to show us selective moments from the film that when viewed with the knowledge that Brucey is dead has a totally different perspective. This tricks the viewer into believing that this is a nuanced and effective film, even though upon further scrutiny and inspection it does not fully stack up.

The problem with The Silent House is that the twist doesn't have a chance of stacking up and instead of being original and shocking it shows a real lack of imagination and guts to follow through with what has come before. It is a shocking ending, in the wrong sense of the word for a horror film!

The whole premise of the film is that it is a "single shot" (more on that later) and is set in real time. Therefore when we are confronted with the fact that Laura has killed her father it totally contradicts what has come before. If we are with her the entire time how does she commit the murder? Why is Nestor so upset with Laura from going upstairs? Who grabs her on the back of the neck? and countless other issues? Just like Switchblade Romance last year I was left with a bad taste in my mouth at the end of this film. They were both gearing up to be some of the great HC new picks and they literally sh*t all over themselves in the last 5 minutes.

Before this however this is one of the creepiest and most effective horror films I have seen in a while. With the "single shot" technique (not actually one continuous take but filmed in real time, there is even an editor credited and the camera only shoots for 12 minutes) never allows for a break in the action and the tension continues to rise throughout to near unbearable levels.

The lighting is incredibly claustraphobic and means you are constantly scanning the background for anything lurking. Half the time your mind is playing tricks on you, which is even scarier than what is on screen. I've never seen such a "dark" film, it is oppressive and with the camera focussing on Laura we don't ever get a feeling for the layout of the house which leads to a sense of disorientation and therefore adds to the uneasiness and whilst this a basic story and premise the scares are executed so perfectly that this doesn't matter and soon you forget about the gimmick of the single shot, except for the fact that the tension never lets up. The only misstep (apart from the ending) is that when Laura escapes from the house for a couple of minutes the momentum dissipates and the tension never quite reaches the unbearable standards that the film sets in the first 45 minutes. However, given the single setting Hernandez wrings every set up for all that they are worth and provides more jump scares than almost any other film I can remember viewing at HC (which makes the ending even more disappointing).

There are a number of scares that I have been done before, but that are pulled off with aplomb here. In particular the scene with the polaroid camera is incredibly effective and the darkness allows for unnoticed cuts in the movie enabling it to seem as if it is one long continuous shot. The choreography alone is incredible in order that these long takes could be carried out, especially given how many scary ass mirrors there are in this house! You just wish that the filmmakers had followed through with the ghost story element which is much scarier than the twist ending that we are presented with.

Despite all the praise noted above I could not make anyone watch this film as the ending is so crushingly disappointing that it leaves the viewer feeling cheated. And unlike the filmmakers I refuse to dupe other viewers like this.

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