We’re starting into July and I know I already have quite the list of films to review, but every now and again one sneaks to the top of the pile, having piqued my interest and teased me from afar with it’s sheer difficulty in acquiring it. Such was the case with the subject of our Review this time out, 2010’s “La Casa Muda”. A spunky little independent Spanish language horror/ suspense film from Uruguay that has proven to be fairly elusive for your Favorite Movie Crazy Catgirl Princess to find a copy of. But…. as with most such hunts, this clever and intensely stubborn kitten always gets her movie eventually and sometimes corners her prey in the most unexpected places. Such as the recently available Region 4 Australian DVD release for this particular one… Yep, I kid you not….. Australia. So it’s off to haunted rural Uruguay by way of Oz for me!
Our synopsis? Well here it goes: “Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father (Gustavo Alonso) settle down in a cottage which seems to be off the beaten track in order to update it since its owner (Abel Tripaldi) will soon put the house on sale. They will spend the night there in order to start the repairs the following morning. Everything seems to go on smoothly until Laura hears a sound that comes from outside and gets louder and louder in the upper floor of the house. Wilson goes up to see what is going on while she remains downstairs on her own waiting for her father to come down. The plot is based on a true story that happened some time ago in a small village in Uruguay. “La Casa Muda” focuses on the last seventy eight minutes, second by second, when Laura intends to leave the house which hides an obscure secret and she hopes to leave unharmed.”
Creepy dark deserted house?… Check. Vulnerable young heroine, alone and in dire danger?….. Check! Mysterious evil presence lurking somewhere in the shadows waiting to strike?… Check!! Looks like all the right elements are in place, so let’s not wait any longer. Neko just knows you’re definitely gonna want to hear about this one, so by all means, “Read On” and find out how it goes!
This one came to my attention some months back when it was first being whispered about in the news at Twitch Film and 24Framespersecond. It’s main claim to fame then was the idea that it was one of those films done as one single uninterrupted scene shot continuously from beginning to end over the course of it’s 83 minute running time. Now that’s been done before mind you, but never as successfully as it might have been, given the limitations of film length in the old technicolor cameras used back in the day. Ahhhh, ha…. but today, the digital camera has changed all of that, allowing for much more freedom in the use of long continuous scenes in a motion picture. Now imagine the reality of acting under such constraints….. one shot…. no re-takes possible, so you are under the gun to get it right the first time. That alone sounded interesting…. but the fact that it was also going to be a horror movie…. well that just about clinched it for this lil’ kitten.
Our story centers almost completely around the character of Laura (played by Florencia Colucci) and director Gustavo Hernández both begins and ends his film with first her arrival and then her ultimate departure from the lonely house of the title. “La Casa Muda” is a low budget film…. rumored to have cost only about 6000$ and shot over only 4 days, but amazingly, it has a very polished and unusual look about it that makes it come across as a much more expensive film. It’s shot with a digital camera…. but unlike the recent glut of “shaky-cam” efforts to flood the horror market, the cinematography here is…. well… completely unique. The camera most often follows our main character, Laura, hovering near her almost like a living thing, sometimes following behind and sometimes proceeding before her as she moves, but always doing something interesting and unexpected. It’s smooth and flowing and in no way hard to watch with camera angles and movements unlike anything I’ve really seen before. Cinematographer Pedro Luque manages a look that adds greatly to the overall sense of creeping dread that pervades the film making the small sets and dark spaces come alive with unseen terror. As our film’s heroine, Miss Colucci is particularly good… and that’s a real plus given that the greatest portion of the film is hers and hers alone as she explores the house, dodging the unseen menace that has nearly killed her father within about the first 15 minutes or so. Hopefully, the exposure she’s been given by the success of this movie will give her more opportunities to shine in future films.
But…. what’s the heck is the story all about? There I can’t really go into things much for you…. as there’s much more going on than you might originally think and your Favorite Catgirl would hate to spoil things for you by spilling the beans so to speak. And you are going to want to see this one if you can…… It’s really that good. Although it might be said that there is a bit of a problem with the overall story motivation mid-way through which will seem….. clumsy…. to just about any viewer given how technically perfect everything else has been to that point. I was a bit confused myself by this almost amateurish feeling plot gaff, but given the power of the atmosphere and overall sense of suspense that the film manages to convey throughout, it’s a trivial complaint that in no way detracts from the experience of the movie as a whole.
Ahhhh…. and the idea of the “single continuous shot”? Well here our filmmakers exaggerated just a wee bit. The bulk of our story… comprising the first 78 minutes of the film are indeed done exactly that way, but once the credits roll, don’t think things are over quite yet. Following those credits is another very important final few minutes of a single scene that… while not explaining everything… does go a long way towards putting a finish to the story.
So… what did I think of this one? Hmmmmm? That’s a question indeed. From the sheer standpoint of the emotional feel of the film, your Favorite Catgirl is definitely impressed. This is a suspense film…. with real scares and a very effective atmosphere of lurking menace done with a very meticulous care to attention of detail. The acting? Very well done too… I’ve already praised Miss Colucci, and her co-stars also do a very professional job here as well. If there is any weakness here at all… it’s with the plot itself. The story starts out as a simple exercise in the old “haunted house” genre with some of the trappings of the modern slasher film tacking on for flavor, but the “plot twist”…. upon which the whole story hangs… just doesn’t work once you realize what it is. And that’s a shame…
Still…. this one is hanging with me… occupying my thoughts long after I’ve watched it and I can’t help saying that I really enjoyed the thrills and eerie suspense of it all despite those pesky plot problems. For that reason I give “La Casa Muda” 4 “Meows” out of 5. It’s a flawed film…. but for such a quirky low budget one, it’s still a worthy experience for the true horror fan looking for a taste of the real feeling of fear and dread that many other better written and better budgeted films often completely fail to deliver. The DVD? I saw this one on the official Region 4 Australian release, in anamorphic wide-screen PAL format. It comes with excellent English subtitles…. although the near lack of practically any dialog for the great majority of the film means you’d enjoy this even without them. It’s available direct from Australia, at about 35-40$ US making this one something I’m afraid is probably not for those of you only casually interested in a look see. Hopefully, however, I’m certain that will change…. your Favorite Catgirl can’t see either IFC or Magnolia not wanting to grab this one for release in at least Region 1 or 2 in the near future. When that happens…. Neko says, “See this one… no if, ands, or buts…”.
Trailer? Yep… got that covered! So to whet your appetite… here it is for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!