Gimmick films always start at a disadvantage, and as such it’s not surprising that most films which are completely one shot (no editing) or try to be completely real-time (or, at the least, cheat to appear so) often fail. The most notable film to attempt this, Hitchock’s Rope, actually wasn’t one shot (due to a lack of the technology) but instead tried to “hide” the edits with limited success. The newest film in this style claims also to be the first horror film to do so. With The Silent House, the gimmick is the least of its problems.
The film’s plot is rather simple. A young woman and her father arrive at a remote cottage in order to renovate and put it up for sale. Suddenly, the young woman hears a bump in the night and, not surprisingly, all hell breaks loose. The film is cluttered with haunted house and horror clichés — including being “based on a true story,” creepy ghost children and dolls, and of course, the twist ending. The script certainly doesn’t help the film, but the choreography and atmosphere saves much of its clunkiness.
As for the gimmick, the one shot is handled surprisingly well. Typically a film is too tied to its gimmick to be anything but excruciatingly painful to watch. And while The Silent House (along with its American re-make, Silent House, soon to be released) may forever be known as the “one-shot horror film,” it uses the seamless editing to its advantage instead of simply accepting the limitations. Of course, there are some expected limitations that cannot be avoided. In particular, by not being able to cut and abbreviate time, the film tends to feel long in places, especially before the horrors come around. The camera also plays a much bigger part of the film than we are used to — and there are times where the camera movements feel obnoxiously choreographed.
Another limitation of one-shot film-making is the inability to cut to a close-up, which the film remedies by sticking close behind our protagonist for nearly the entire run-time. This adds to the creepy atmosphere by leaving much of the frame hidden and giving the viewer an intense unawareness of what could be lurking behind the camera. The tension the film provides will be enough to scare most viewers, although it has only a few parts that will make you jump. These truly scary sequences really work, but because the film is primarily about a young woman who walks around a house, there are long stretches that stray on the boring side.
The Silent House is a film that I wanted to like more, and there is certainly a lot to like, but the final act kills it for me. I won’t spoil what happens, but the film changes from a nice, simple ghost story into a film that overly explains itself. The ending comes close to destroying the whole concept of the film, which is infuriating. There is plenty of technical aspects to applaud, but I can’t overcome the bad taste that was left in my mouth by the end.