On the sole idea alone- a horror film shot all in one take for 78 minutes- I was completely sold on seeing this film. I obviously was not alone because not long after initially discovering the film the remake rights were sold, the remake was filmed and has already been screened- thus thrusting LA CASA MUDA in the ranks of a fellow foreign horror feature [REC]. The moments leading up to finally being able to sit down and watch LA CASA MUDA were almost as tense and watching the film itself- almost. This tightly paced little spooky house flick is jam packed with eerie atmosphere, spine tingling moments of tension and some incredibly staged scares- though I have to question rather or not it was in one single take.
LA CASA MUDA is inspired by true events and follows Laura and her father Wilson who arrive at a home they intend to renovate before it is sold. The two plan to spend the night in order to get right to work in the morning, but just as Wilson nods off Laura hears a noise outside. The noises get louder and it becomes clear that something strange and dangerous is happening in the house and she has to find a way out of the house safely.
There is no way to adequately detail much of the plot without venturing into heavy spoilers, but those are the basic details of the film. Strip it down even more and what we’ve got here is a spooky house with spooky things going down. This is the type of premise and plot devices that we have seen countless times but with the added twist that we are seeing this happen in real time without a single cut. Let me say that if this is all in one take then this film is quite brilliant- to accomplish everything they have here in regards to acting and set ups it’s just phenomenal. However, I question the one take statement on a few moments- several times throughout the film there are times the screen is completely black or turning to frames that would make it easy to sneak in a quick cut. One scene in particular involving a Polaroid camera where the screen is dark for nearly a full minute a couple times that with the movie magic could have been cheated and snuck cuts in there as well. I will extend the benefit of doubt that it still works and the continuity of events makes the real time gimmick somewhat seamless.
The performance by the main character and even the other minor characters are quite good as well. There is very little dialogue though since the majority of the film is nothing but the main character, Laura, exploring a dark house with a lantern and occasionally calling out a name. It’s the emotional reactions and cries that resonate the most and at times is even quite powerful on their own.
I can’t say that the film is perfect though, even though to really delve into why would spoil quite a bit. I will say that as we power towards the end the “twist” makes me question how certain things in the beginning could have happened at all. Also while the film relies heavily on suspense, mood and an incredibly spooky atmosphere there are a few sneaky jump scares that actually got me so I couldn’t fault the movie too much for them. My only real complaint is the logic of the twist in the reality of the movie and other odd happenings in the final few minutes.
The whole fear in real time really makes this film feel unique and the camera work is pretty great. There is an additional scene added at the end that is shot continuously although if you include that scene in the constraints of the “one shot” gimmick then the entire movie cannot possibly be in one continuous take since the end credit sequence takes place in an entirely different location from the last shot before the credits- that’s not a complaint though.
LA CASA MUDA does not win a lot of points for originality, but what it lacks in that department it more than makes up for in style and overall effect of the film it presents. The continuous take style helps make the film tense and the cinematography looks fantastic and the actors make it just seem masterful if indeed it was all accomplished in one take. Despite some minor hiccups in the actual story and logic within the story the film is just an extremely impressive exercise in creating an effectively scary atmosphere with a flawed yet decent payoff in the end.