Once The Blair Witch Project got the hand-held horror bandwagon rolling, the world was desperate to jump aboard with France (Them), Britain (My Little Eye), and Spain ([REC]) jerking a thumb ahead of a slew of American hitchers (The Strangers, Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism).
So here we have Uruguay’s entry, a spooky-house yarn whose makers claim was filmed in a single, unbroken take (and the first feature to be shot entirely on a Canon Mk II digital camera, fact fans).
But since the screen goes completely dark on several occasions, you’ll have to take their word for it.
The real-time ordeal begins when Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father (Gustavo Alonso) arrive at a remote country house belonging to Nestor (Abel Tripaldi), who needs it tidying up for sale.
With light fading and no amenities connected, father and daughter bed down for the night. But no sooner has Nestor left and Dad nodded off than the strange noises begin.
Minutes later, Laura finds herself trapped and alone. Yet her unseen tormentor – or perhaps the house itself - seems to be waiting, leaving a host of clues to its awful secret.
Thanks to its one-shot USP, The Secret House was a hit on the festival circuit, drawing favourable comparison to Hitchcock’s Rope (though that was several ten-minute takes edited to look like one).
There’s no denying its audacity, or the smoothness with which director Hernandez and his leading lady Colucci progress Laura’s situation.
Alongside flashes of invention, Hernandez deploys all the staples of the genre to unnerve and distract: old toys, rusty sickles, fading photos, raven-haired girls in white dresses.
The aural atmosphere similarly thrums to a multitude of thuds, whimpers, plinky piano chords and scratchy coughs from the radio.
Unfortunately, by trying to pull off his trick in one fell swoop, Hernandez relies on too many murky and unlikely developments. It never really convinces.
A bold idea and confidently executed, but it’s more likely to leave you flummoxed than frightened.
Read more Sky Movies film reviews here