Firstly, I haven’t seen an awful lot of films from Uruguay. In fact, The Silent House is the only one (yes, I did do my homework and go through a list of Uruguayan films just to check. There really aren’t that many).
Secondly, I haven’t seen an awful lot of films that purport to be in ‘real time’ either – especially not that take pains to look as if they were filmed in one take as well. In fact, errr...I’ve still not see one of those.
So, yes, Silent House doesn’t really deliver on it’s initial promise of one-take real-time terror – There are camera edits (although well hidden), and the coda takes place the next day, but such technical criticism seems rather churlish, as the film should stand on the merits of its story and atmosphere, right?
The plot (what little of it exists) goes like this – Handyman and his young daughter go to clear out an abandoned old house which the owner is selling. They arrive at night and are to sleep there until the next day. The father soon falls asleep and the girl starts to hear some strange and rather disturbing noises. Then her father wakes and goes to investigate, until he turns up bound and dead....
That’s literally all the plot I can give away without spoilering. Unfortunately I rather wish I could be more spoilerific with this review, because A) Most of my negative reaction to this film comes with the ending and B) You’d be less likely to want to see it.
To be fair, for the most part the film does what I expected it to do – It puts you at unease with the feel of the real time, single take, where there is a lot of darkness and not much happening, and then steadily amps up the scares – most of which are of the very effective ‘unexplained scary noise’ variety, until the dead father turns up, and things get stranger.
Unfortunately, it’s the aforementioned ‘twist’ ending that breaks it apart. On the first watch I was a little confused, so I attempted it again, and got even more confused. Obviously, in a reviewer, this is generally not a good look, so I went and read all the spoilery reviews I could find in an attempt to make sense. Where am I now? Well, I’m still just as confused, if I’m honest - whether it was the film maker’s intention to have this as deliberately vague as it comes across, or whether it was a result of bad writing/story telling I’m not sure, but it will leave the average viewer scratching their heads and shrugging (sorry, I could go into specifics, but, again, spoilers).
So all in all I cannot really recommend The Silent House – which is a shame, as for the first 40 minutes or so I was impressed by the naturalistic acting and setting and the slow-burn tension – But slow burn is useless without release, and that just doesn’t happen here.