La Casa Muda has become fairly well known on the fantastic festival circuit mainly for its modus operandi: it was shot in one long take. And deservedly so: this technique, which frequently incorporates first person perspective, creates one of the most terrifying atmospheres in any horror film I’ve watched. The tension created by this technique, made more atmospheric by the natural (i.e. almost complete lack of) lighting and the traditional remote, old haunted house that may or may not be inhabited by a psycho-killer is outstanding.
Laura and her father are asked by a friend of his to help prepare an old family property for sale. They will spend the weekend there, cleaning it out and removing the old junk. When Laura and her father have bunked in for the night, Laura hears noises upstairs, where the friend had said the floors were not stable enough to walk on. She convinces her father to go up and investigate. She hears a crash, and her father is hurtled down the stairs, bloody and near death. The camera has been with Laura the entire time, so the audience is just as in the dark as she is.
Unfortunately, this is where the film starts to lose its believability. I can’t think of any person who would not use any and all means possible to get out of that house. Laura does try the door once, and then proceeds to go upstairs. By the end of the film, there is an explanation given to Laura’s behaviour. But it itself is too implausible, or perhaps too cliché, to be taken seriously. However, if the plot is put aside, this is one of the most incredible aesthetic executions of horror and fear in recent film memory. As Laura, with aching slowness, makes her way upstairs to discover the source of the fear, the camera both follows her and is her. The claustrophobia extends out into the audience; I can’t remember the last time a film made that many viewers jump so many times.
But the narrative is not enough to sustain it, and the final explanation is less than gratifying. Strong performances, especially by Florencia Colucci as Laura, are solid and believable. But if it were any other person, they would have used any and all means available to get out of that house and never return, and without that, it does not quite satisfy.