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Exclusive Interview: The Silent House’s Gustavo Hernández

The single-take chiller coming to VOD

Look past the gimmick of The Silent House (La Casa Muda) and you’ll find a simmering, grim tale that efficiently preys on its viewer’s nerves minute-by-minute without a noticeable edit made. Rest assured, fans of slow burn horror tales, Gustavo Hernández’s Spanish-language chiller transcends the “told in one continuous shot” gimmick that’s garnering plenty of press. Here in the States, two filmmakers were so impressed by the picture that it has already been remade as Silent House (which premiered at Sundance earlier this year).

The film – which hails from Uruguay – follows a young woman, Laura, and her father who have been hired to clean up a house before it is put on the market. Quickly, her father is put out of commission and Laura is left alone in this dark, dusty abode with someone stalking the second floor.

IFC Midnight has brought the film to VOD and Shock had an opportunity to fire off a few questions to Hernández about his debut on the genre scene, his history, influences and what he’s at work on next.

Shock Till You Drop: This film represents your directorial debut, before this, what else did you create?

Gustavo Hernández: Before, I was working in advertising, short films, and music videos. Only once I made something in the horror genre, a screen version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. I also directed a few short films with a hint of comedy, I never tied myself to a specific genre and I hope not to do so in the future.

Shock: The Silent House is said to be based on a true story – can you go into this a bit more?  How and when did you first here about the story your film is inspired by? How does the truth and the fiction defer?

Hernández : It is inspired by a murder from the 1940s in which 2 mutilated bodies, and a number of disturbing photos, were found inside a country home. Based on that event we reconstructed the possible last 80 minutes before the murders.

Shock: Did the decision to do the film in one take come before or after you decided on the material?  If it came after, what was it about the story that inspired you to take this approach?

Hernández : The Silent House was born as an experimentation project of a group of friends and I always believed that the best way to tell this story was with no cuts. In a single sequence I could transmit an unsettling and squalid atmosphere, so that the viewer can travel through the house and the sensations in the same way as the characters. By telling the story without ellipsis of time or space, you achieve a natural realism adequate to transmit the necessary emotions.

Shock: How did your lead actress, Florencia Colucci, respond to the style?

Hernández: There were moments in the shoot that were very traumatic for Florencia because of the emotional load and the weight of the responsibility in leading the story. We would start from the beginning, over and over again, learning from our mistakes, but repetition tends to be automatic and frustrating, and many times mistakes by others created a difficult atmosphere when it was time to start over. Now that time has passed I recall the shooting with great joy, but there were moments of tension when the choreography between the actors and the technical team failed. I did not feel any type of pressure in the creation of this movie because the project emerged as a game, a possibility to create a piece with compete freedom, made with friends and produced by a friend and partner, Gustavo Rojo. We love the concept of “real fear in real time” and so we began to work on the project. We had 8000 dollars to make the movie, a house, three actors, five days of shooting and a lot of desire in experimenting in this genre. The Silent House was born from that combination.

Shock: Which filmmakers – past and present – inspire you?

Hernández: I love the narrative pulse of classic directors like Kubrick, Scorsese, Hitchcock. For the The Silent House we were particularly inspired by the works of European directors such as David Moreau, Xavier Palud and Alexandre Aja.

Shock: Have you been telling people prior to screenings to “stay through the credits”? Because that’s a pretty big pay-off…

Hernández: The final scene, after the credits, helps to enrich, even more, the feelings and individuality of the characters. It is a dreamlike scene that helps to go deeper into their conducts.

Shock: What are your feelings on the upcoming remake? What do you aspire to do next?

Hernández: We did not see the remake, but we really enjoyed Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s last work [Open Water]. We are anxious to discover a new vision on our work. We are now working on the script of a new project. It is a very particular psychological thriller called “The Funeral of Elbert Kurman” and it shares the same risk and experimentation spirit with The Silent House, but from a very different angle. We are very excited with the idea because we believe we can create a peculiar and different piece in the genre.

Click here for a look at the trailer and more.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor