This psychological horror from Uruguay revolves around the unexplained events that took place in a derelict house deep in the woods, and is based in a real life murder case from Uruguay in the 1940’s that was never solved.
Gustavo Hernández is the director at the helm of this creepy, insidious film that is shot in real time on a hand held digital camcorder in one 78 minute take. Well, the first 78 minutes are shot like this; do not leave until the credits are completely finished.
The story begins with Laura and her grumpy father Wilson arriving at the crumbling old house. Wilson seems to be a long time employee and friend of the owner, Nestor, who puts in appearance to let them in. Laura is there to help her dad with the daunting task Nestor has given them, he wants the whole house and the grounds cleaned out as he is looking to sell it.
The whole job is meant to take 2-3 day, and they will obviously be living on site, in a house without electricity. Intending to get stuck into it in the morning and with candles and lamps necessary after dark, the father and daughter bed down in a couple of arm chairs. Laura is awoken by a heart stopping noise from upstairs, and as the horrific events unfold, it seems as if she is being menaced by spirits they have awoken.
Developments in both the projection and shooting that are fairly recent have now made single take films possible, and the seamless, extended travelling shot is now achieved a lot more convincingly than Hitchcock tried to do in Rope, where the cuts were famously disguised by the camera frequently swooping into darkness. There seems to be something about the single take film that’s conducive to the supernatural, and it is used here to great effect.
This method of film making doesn’t afford the haunted the luxury of cuts and scene changes, just as in real life. The atmosphere accumulates and intensifies in an oppressive and uncanny way, much like a séance. Paradoxically, this real space and real time makes us even more aware of what is being created here. It is undoubtedly a huge risk; one muffed line or failed light or boom mike coming into shot and its right back to the beginning again, and have Hernández tearing his hair out.
The clever use of the darkness does eliminate some of these, while at the same time creating a Victorian atmosphere with the pale and strained face of Laura illuminated only by the lamp as she explores the house and opens doors with trembling hands. The shocks come when they are least expected, there are moments when you feel your skin crawling, and this is one little horror film that deserves to be hugely successful.