If you remember...the rules are pretty simple here. For the uninitiated....the two films must be similar in comparison. Perhaps they share the same actor, perhaps the same premise, maybe similar astrological signs...whatever. Once the similarities are determined then, it is the ultimate duel to the death in our little blood-stained battle. Two films enter...one film leaves!
Today's DEATH MATCH involves two of the same films. That is...an Argentinian film called La Casa Muda...which means The Silent House in English. And an American remake of the same film called Silent House...which means Casa Muda in Spanish. Yes, friends, it's another goddamn remake. But, did Hollywood get it right this time around? Well....let us see for ourselves as we bring out both film combatants for this brutal review to end all disputes.
There can be...only one!
(Warning...there may be SPOILERS & BLOOD)
The first competitor making its way to the octagon is...
La Casa Muda (2010)
The first of our combatants is a horror film from Uruguay by director Gustavo Hernández. It's a slow burn of a film that unravels fairly consistently. The premise is a little more involved than your usual "trapped-in-a-scary-house" fare. A father named Wilson and his daughter, Laura, go back to their old house and meet with, what appears to be, an old friend named Nestor to clean up the building and make sure it's re-sellable to any potential buyers. Wilson and Laura decide to stay overnight to get a jump on things, while Nestor goes off to obtain a few things. Things take a turn for the worse in a matter of moments and it's not long before Laura, played by a subtle Florencia Colucci, is caught in a fight for her life.
This is a difficult film to talk about because there is just so much involved and it becomes hard to say anything about the film without giving too much away. But, I will say that the first two/thirds of the film feels more like a spook-house affair than what ultimately unfolds.
Once we learn of the details...La Casa Muda turns into something much more High Tension than Insidious. And be sure to stick around after the credits as it reveals much more of a psychological horror than anything supernatural. Although the film's ending may very well annoy many a horror fan, it makes more sense in this version than the American version.
As far as the technical aspects of the film. All the performances are decent. There's no real stand outs. Florencia Colucci does a nice job of not overplaying her Laura character and, really...the only other two actors are Abel Tripaldi as Nestor and Gustavo Alonso as Laura's dad, Wilson. They're actually much better than their American counterparts and lend a nice subtlety to the overall craziness of the the subject matter.
As far as how the film looks. It doesn't really add or subtract anything to what your watching. The gimmick here is that they shot the entire thing in one take. I have a hard time believing this...as there are quite a bit of spots where the filmmakers could've easily just spliced certain scenes together without distraction. Particularly the scenes in total blackness. Still...it is quite a small miracle to convey every emotion and plot-twist in real time in the ways that they did. Impressive to say the least.
Anyway...as a whole, La Casa Muda doesn't bring anything new to the genre, nor does it attempt to change anything. Other than the "one continuous shot" gimmick...there's no real uniqueness to the film. The film does a decent job telling its story and it never overstays its welcome.
The next film making its way to the octagon is...
Silent House (2011)
For the American version of La Casa Muda, Chris Kentis and Laura Lau (the duo responsible for the shark film Open Water) share director responsibilities. Silent House is more of a slow burn than the original was. It pretty much shares the same premise as what we've seen already, except that they turned the family friend into a pervy uncle named Peter (Eric Sheffer Stevens). They also end up making all the male characters quite douchey...especially the father, John (played by Adam Trese). I mention this particular detail because it was a tad distracting. I couldn't help thinking to myself that there was something obviously wrong with these male characters.
They also take liberties in changing up a few elements in this version. Like throwing in a distracting character that doesn't really end up making any kind of logical sense and making the entire thing feel much more like a slasher kind of film. The filmmakers also take a few steps in revealing a little too much that gives the entire twist away midway through for any of the astute genre fans out there.
The centerpiece of the entire experience is Elizabeth Olsen's performance as Sarah. A kind of fragile girl who appears ambiguous in many ways. I suppose that's what Sophia (Julia Taylor Ross) was for...a distraction early on in the film to throw your scent off of Sarah. I don't mind her as a "distraction" character but, at least give her some kind of relevance to the story. The original didn't have this distraction...so, I found it to be ultimately annoying.
Anyway, back to Olsen...she's an amazing actress who should get the most credit for why this film doesn't go off the tracks entirely. She conveys every bit of emotion in ways that make you experience her "real time fear" in such an organic way and you can't help but feel for her every step of the way. Which is why the ending for this version makes you feel as if you've been betrayed. As I mentioned in the Casa Muda review, this film utilizes that tricky twist reveal that has hampered films like High Tension and The Uninvited. I wish the film went more towards the direction of The Ring...where the twist reveals the final antagonist to be pure evil. No motives or explanation as to why bad shit is happening. It's simply because the antagonist hates you.
The film does look amazing for being a gimmicky "one-shot" ordeal. I applaud the filmmakers here for creating, if nothing else, a beautiful-looking horror film. While you can argue that this film wasn't shot in one take (there are several areas where you can spot where they might've spliced the film if you look), it doesn't distract with any obvious cuts...so, you aren't really taken out of the film.
So, in the end...Silent House is one of those horror films that stand out more for its technical merits and an amazing performance by its lead actress. If you can forgive the end...then the journey to that end may be worth your while. I just wish the filmmakers didn't add all that distracting nonsensical stuff and kept the original motivation of the antagonist intact...instead of halting everything the way that they did.
HOT FEMALE FACTOR: Both films are centered around a young hottie thrust in the ominous confines of a creepy old house. But, only one of these films has an Olsen sibling. Elizabeth Olsen is not only extremely easy on the eyes, but she's got the acting chops that obviously skipped over the rest of the family. And if you're not into hot blondes in revealing white tank tops...Julia Taylor Ross isn't too bad, either. Winner: Silent House
GORE: There's no clear winner in this category...as both films skimp tremendously on the gore factor. However, since this is a competition forged in blood then, we need to look closer. Aside from a scene early on in both films where the protagonist is covered in a certain victim's blood, there's not much more blood until the ending...where shit sort of hits the fan. But, there's still not much blood and gore involved. So, there's no clear cut winner here. Winner: Tie
ACTING: Both films display a healthy dose of decent acting. However, it is Elizabeth Olsen's performance that is most impressive of both films. She exhibits such a great example of acting, that I wouldn't be surprised if she's nominated for awards in years to come. She's that good. Winner: Silent House
FILM QUALITY: Both Silent House and La Casa Muda share the same gimmick "one shot" deal...so, you can't really call one better than the other. I felt that both films looked amazing for what they claimed to have done. Shot the entire film in one take. One could make an argument that Silent House looks slightly better than its predecessor. However, that's only a case of film budget...so, we won't give that film the edge here. La Casa Muda would've looked just as great with a bigger budget. Both films are equally impressive for shooting in "real time". Winner: Tie
This is a tough one...because, while I disliked both endings, the one in La Casa Muda made more sense for the story. Especially if you stuck around for the after credits epilogue. So, if someone came up to me and asked me to recommend which film was better...I would say La Casa Muda in a heartbeat. However, the performance of Elizabeth Olsen is a tough one to ignore as it showcases a young talent capable of going on to do better things. I would watch any other genre film with her cast in it...knowing that we would get another great performance by her. So, I would recommend Silent House in a heartbeat only for her acting.