We had a good chat a couple of weeks ago, I think, about horror, and how horribly it tends to end. That was a discussion in large part brought to bear by Nathaniel Katz's review of The Ritual, and the Caitlin R. Kiernan I had been reading... but also a couple of movies I'd volunteered to watch for review on VideoVista, The Zone's sister site for cinema. A couple of horror movies, of course, that I'd heard great things about.
Alas. These films were assuredly not great things, and in both cases that had a lot to do with the way they concluded... or didn't.
Why don't we start with the show-stopper?
The Silent House is a Uruguayan found footage affair ostensibly shot in a single take, about a girl and her handyman father who go to clean up a cottage in the countryside only to find themselves terrorised by something that goes bump and stab in the night. It's actually good shit, for the most part. Sadly:
The Silent House would have been a manifestly more memorable piece in totality without its ill-conceived last act, wherein Hernandez takes it upon himself to explain what should by all rights be left inexplicable. In so doing, the ambitious director overreaches at the last (but not least) hurdle, systematically it seems subverting the power of all the alarming happenings he bade us witness only moments ago, because sadly, the muddled rationale Hernandez spells out - the big reveal before the final curtain comes clattering down, ten minutes too late - goes wholly against the internal logic so deliberately, delicately established before. We are left, then, with not the intricate puzzle we had presumed, to be turned over and over in our minds after the fact - perhaps unpicked in the fullness of time, or perhaps not - but only... a trick; a cheat; an unholy hoax.
That said, The Silent House seemed to me a masterpiece next to Julia's Eyes, the last film to bear super-producer Guillermo del Toro's name before Are You Afraid of the Dark? The problem with Julia's Eyes is as follows:
It is, at heart, a daft little horror film - proficiently executed on a technical level, from set dressing through effects by way of Fernando Velázquez's throwback Psycho score and Óscar Faura's exceptional cinematography, but narratively it is no more and no less than a nonsense - if not an utter nothing. Mistakenly, Morales approaches the film's story with such po-facedness as to render this ridiculous thing conspicuously ignorant of its own ridiculousness. He seems to think his themes far-reaching and his characters sincerely meaningful when they are in reality no more than cyphers, to a one; and how gripping his script?
I'll tell you: not... one... whit. Only in its moderately powerful middle third is Julia's Eyes even passing tense or atmospheric. In the erstwhile, it is limp, insubstantial, vastly overlong, and as obtuse as the revelation Morales attempts to pass off as a twist, come the dreadful dénouement, which only serves to underscore what an almighty waste of time Julia's Eyes is.
So we're right back where we started; surprise, surprise.
But stay tuned... all is not lost! Later this week I'll be reviewing the best horror film I've seen in some time, and certainly the most disturbing movie - genre or not - I've sat down with since The Human Centipede. So there's that.