Sorry Optimum, the honeymoon is over.

Thursday March 31st 2011

It’s been less than a year since Gustavo Hernández’s experimental Uruguayan horror film The Silent House premiered at Cannes, but its English-language remake (starring Elizabeth Olsen of all people) has already been completed, premiered and bought for $3 million at Sundance back in January. The grand conceit – a real-time slasher movie shot in one digital take – is clearly a marketable one, and UK distributor Optimum (of Best Distributor Ever fame) seem to know it.

Much of the marketing is understandably playing up the film’s technical credentials, with lots of ‘one continuous take’ this and ‘recorded with a photo camera’ that. Sorry, did I say ‘recorded with a photo camera’? I obviously meant…

Hahaha foreign people nuh spell propa.

It’s a remarkable achievement that the film has any sense of tone or structure at all given the endless technical obstacles, and some of the camerawork on display is absolutely breathtaking. Unknown actress Florencia Colucci is equally impressive in the lead role, never once faltering despite the massive pressure put upon her by the set up.

Of course, this is 2011 and it’s almost impossible to say for sure that the film is really one take. There are plenty of whip pans and dark spots that could easily conceal cuts, so it’s really up to you whether you trust the marketing. Personally, I do. [There might be another pound in it for me.]

Unfortunately, the film’s technological integrity is largely besides the point when it’s so entirely devoid of structure, character, tension and emotion. It’s painfully evident that the concept preceded the story in the mind of director Hernández and even the film’s quasi-twist ending feels like a lame construct designed to further serve the purposes of the camera.

At just over 70 minutes, The Silent House can’t be accused of overstaying its welcome. But it’s essentially an art film, so don’t go expecting Paranormal Activity.