Sunday, October 24, 2021

LA CASA MUDA (aka THE SILENT HOUSE) (2010) Movie Review

Scare-A-Thon Totals to Date:

Total Movies Watched: 23
Total First Time Views: 14
Amount raised for ALBANY PARK THEATER PROJECT: $1,760.00

La Casa Muda (2010) d. Gustavo Hernandez (Uruguay) (89 min) (2nd viewing)

Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father Wilson (Gustavo Alonzo) arrive at their friend Nestor’s (Abel Tripaldi) secluded cottage in the woods, planning to spend the night in order to get an early start on the cleaning and rehabbing job for which they’ve been hired. However, as they settle in for bed, the house reveals itself to not be as vacant as originally believed.

La Casa Muda generated a sizable amount of notoriety and goodwill during its festival run, thanks primarily to its “single unbroken take” format, with the camera (and DP Pedro Luque) endlessly prowling about and around Colucci. Looking back at the film with a decade of found footage and POV cinema in our collective rearview, it can be easy to forget how groundbreaking and mesmerizing this “real-time” single-camera approach must have seemed coming out of the aughts with Paranormal Activity having just broken big at the box office in 2009.

After her father promptly disappears after going upstairs, Laura becomes our main point of focus as she wanders the house seeking the source of random creepy noises. And while the ever-changing POV and handheld cinematography is a little off-putting at times, not to mention her constant (if understandable) whimpers of distress, the illusion of one continuous shot is quite mesmerizing and deserving of kudos. Hernandez and Co. generate an overwhelmingly claustrophobic atmosphere amidst dusty relics and shadowy mirrors, with ghost child chills and Polaroid flashbulb shocks aplenty.

Admittedly, some patience is required for the early slow-burn narrative (how many times must we go up and down the stairs?) and the third-act plot twist might feel a bit unearned with the old “unreliable narrator” gambit at play. However, if viewers pay close attention to screenwriter Oscar Estevez’s minimal, seemingly casual dialogue during the first 10 minutes, it all pays off in a queasy, unsettling fashion. (I admit, I had to rewind, but it was worth it.) Speaking of which, stick around through the closing credits, as there’s a bit of stinger waiting, as well as a four-minute “thanks” crawl. Gratitude is everything in low-budget filmmaking.

As is their wont, Hollywood promptly followed suit with a (slightly) bigger budget remake starring Elizabeth Olsen in 2011 for those who don’t like reading subtitles, with Open Water’s Chris Kentis and Laura Lau employing the same single take gimmick. However, for the adventurous genre fan looking to notch “Uruguay horror” on their proverbial gun belt, this is a great place to start.

*For those of you wondering where the heck Uruguay is located, it’s bordered by Brazil and Argentina on the southeastern edge of South America. Don’t feel bad, I had to look it up as well, and it seems like a nice place to visit.

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