Gustavo Hernandez’ debut film The Silent House (La Casa Muda) takes inspiration from a real life case which happened nearly seventy years ago, and the Uruguayan horror film has played to festival crowds and had a limited release over here in UK cinemas in April.

Now the film comes to DVD and we had the chance to speak to the director about his influences, the one-shot technique and the culture of remakes, particularly in the horror genre.


This film is based on a real event in the 1940s – but what other influences came to mind when you were developing it – both literary and cinematic?

We were influenced by films such as David Moreau’s and Xabier Palud’s Them (Ils) and Alexandre Aja’s High Tension (Haute Tension). Also by Edgar Allan Poe, John Carpenter, Kubrick and Alejandro Amenábar. There are always direct and indirect influences in our films and The Silent House is no exception.

Some of the most effective moments in the film do not rely on jump scares and shock – is this the horror you enjoy to watch? Films that are more psychological in the nature of their horror?

Yes, absolutely. The Silent House is a tense game with a handful of shocks. There are many moments when the viewers can be fooled by their imagination, looking down or perhaps sighing when the main character walks through the corridors while nothing is happening. I find that game very interesting. I’d rather suggest than show. This fear is very basic and very familiar to us. They live with us since our childhood. It’s like hearing a strange noise at home in the middle of the night. For a couple of seconds, our senses are alert and we try to convince ourselves that it was just the wind that caused that noise. We tried to replicate those seconds in the film as if it was something natural, to get the viewers to relate with what the main character is feeling.

How important is horror as a genre to you? You’ve started out working in this genre but are your future plans to stay directing horror films – are there other stories you are desperate to tell?

My second project is a tribute to this genre from an unusual viewpoint. It’s called The Funeral of Elbert Kurman and it also has an experimental element which has some aspects in common with The Silent House but it’s different from a filmmaking point of view. In my folders I have ideas for horror films, but also other genres, such as magic realism and more conventional films. I visualize film with a great degree of fantasy, and I like it. I love watching films that play with our imagination and touch us at some point. This is what I’m always looking for as a director. It’s difficult but it’s essential in film.

The lead performance from Florencia Colucci is very impressive and must have taken a huge physical toll on her – how was it directing her through the shoot?

It was tough for everyone but especially for her. We all had to be very focused, as the slightest error would mean we had to start all over again. It was a tense atmosphere for the actors and the technicians to live and work in. Some days were very frustrating. Florencia would end up in tears and I thought she was going to quit, as she was really exhausted. Luckily, she always showed up the following morning with her batteries recharged. We learnt from our mistakes to be able to move forward. Personally, I’m very happy with the acting, as it was very challenging, not only the acting itself but also the very detailed choreographies we designed, which were followed perfectly.

I don’t believe that the one-shot film was used as a gimmick here, rather I assumed it was as close to the unfolding of events on that night in 1940 – can you talk about your reasons for using the continuous format and if you are happy with or regret the decision?

I don’t regret it, no. Had the story of The Silent House been told in a traditional way, the movie would be forgotten and I wouldn’t be answering these questions now. Shooting the whole film in one take was a massive challenge but it was the best way I could think of to tell this story. I wanted the viewers to feel the same fear, feelings and emotions the main character was feeling. By getting rid of the ellipses and of the manipulation of time and space, you can make viewers live a different experience and get involved in the plot, carried by the main character, walking with her around the house and into her mind too.

In the West we’re in a remake and sequel obsessed culture – obviously your film has already been remade but what you’re appreciation of the horror genre at the moment – who are the directors and writers who have impressed you?

I think Hollywood looks for ideas outside as a shortcut. From a commercial point of view, it makes financial sense to remake a film that has been well received, be it by the general audience or in different festivals. It’s faster and there’s no need to take any chances. After the so-called “Nouvelle horror vague” in France, the horror genre has declined considerably, without key figures for the new generations. It’s difficult to tell where it’s heading. I’m impressed by the new revival of the genre in Latin America, with some projects that would not have been released in a different time. It’s still early to talk about a collective movement, but I’m positive that very soon this part of the world will be a reference point when it comes to the horror genre.

The Silent House is released on DVD on the 1st of August.