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Review: Gustavo Hernández’ LA CASA MUDA (The Silent House)

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The stuff of horror and the conventions filmmakers use to frighten us are nothing new: science has not discovered any new human emotion to tamper with, and the filmmaker’s toolbox has contained the same tricks or treats for over a 100 years now (more or less); it’s all been done before. But an original story with an approach that speaks to the director’s singular vision will always feel fresh and sincere.

First impressions are everything, and judging from the trailer of La Casa Muda (The Silent House), Uruguayan national Gustavo Hernández is set to put that South American region, mostly known for its agriculture, on the international map of horror, as well bring more exposure to the genre of Latin-based horror. Especially since it was announced just yesterday that La Casa Muda was selected to be among the 24 films that will showcase as part of this year’s Directors’ Fortnight during the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. La Casa is Uruguay’s official entry.

(not to mention that sci-fi phenom Federico Alvárez will shoot part of the feature-length version of his extremely virulent short Panic Attack! in Uruguay later this year, too)

The story of La Casa Muda centers on a father and daughter team who settle into a dilapidated cottage to begin to make some much-needed repairs. And as an organically built-in metaphor to the director’s land-locked country, that is surrounded on three sides by Brazil and Argentina, the protagonists soon find themselves with only one possible way out of their dire dilemma – directly through the unknown evil force that threatens their very existence. The story, we are told, is based on true events that took place in Uruguay in 1944. This detail makes the premise instantly all the more intriguing in The Blair Witch Project kind of way (but hopefully with a genuine payoff). And given what we’ve seen so far, we think there will be.

La Casa Muda is shot in a single, continuous 78-minute take using a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) Canon’s D5—a still camera with the added capacity to shoot full 1080 HD video (part of that ‘more or less’ equation). The film’s look is a marvel given the technology utilized (the D5s were first generation, buggy and tempermental units) and the credit goes to cinematographer Pedro Luque. Producer Gustavo Rojo also needs to be singled out for effectively managing such an enormouse orchastration and coming out the other side with a production as visually rich on only a shoe-string budget: around $6,000!

he film follows in the footsteps of other shake-and-brake films with its use of hand-held camera work (think Cloverfield and District 9). But unlike those nausea-inducing pills that ran amok in their sprawling environments, La Casa is more in line with its Spanish counterpart, REC (with whom it shares a few similarities), bound to close quarters with movement more an innate byproduct of the story than a forced joyride. Kudos go to DP Luque again for striking a visual balance (incidently, it should be noted here that Luque also shot the eye-catching Panic Attack!). Similarly like REC, it is also a first-person point-of-viewer.

But apart from all the semantics, the film’s real power lies its ability to take away our safety net by focusing on the true and tried basics of fear without relying on ungrounded gimmicks or CGI. It’s hard to do that when the camera doesn’t stop rolling. The filmmaker’s astutely bill this as “Real fear in real time.” What lies in the shadows is as important as what we are allowed to see; the mind fills in the blanks. And we cannot pause, rewind, or make it stop until its final conclusion.

Making us feel powerless in the dark, now that’s true horror.

Ladies and gentlemen, Gustavo Hernández has left the building…

For more info, visit the film’s official website:

http://www.lacasamuda.com

The Silent House - Poster

The Silent House – Poster

Edwin Pagán
Edwin "El Miedo" Pagán is the Founder-In-Chief of LATIN HORROR. Pagán is a writer, filmmaker and life-long horror fan. In 2008 he founded LATIN HORROR, an online niche market website specializing in Latin-influenced horror, its documentation, and promotion as a distinct genre. Pagán is at the forefront of the Latin "Dark Creative Expressionist" movement, a term he coined as a means of identifying the millions of lost souls who live outside the rim of mainstream society and whose lifestyle and work is grounded in horror, the macabre, and gothic arts. Currently, he is penning a book entitled 'MIEDO - The History of Latin Horror.' Trivia: He is noted for ending his written correspondence with the offbeat salutation 'There will be SANGRE!'

There will be SANGRE: The Business of Horror (Panel)

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