Written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo
Dulce (Rodríguez) is wrongly accused of heinous crimes, the stabbing death of her husband and the disappearance of her son. Sent to prison for 70 years, she returns to the house where the crimes took place under police supervision. But the secrets within the house will not stay silent for long, and the mystery of what took place that murderous evening starts to come to light with a mastery and pathos not seen since J.A. Bayona’s The Orphanage.
At the North American premiere of La casa del fin de los tiempos (The House at the End of Time) at Fantasia Film Fest, which Dread Central attended, the audience left in tears due to the film’s emotional and authentically touching ending.
Alejandro Hidalgo’s first feature and one of the few horror films from Venezuela, The House at the End of Time is like nothing I have seen before in a haunted house film. Imagine Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others with the storytelling structure of Steven Soderbergh’s The Limey. Its circular narrative gradually uncovers, with more and more clarity, the truth about Dulce and what really went on the night of the murder.
Each scene from the beginning of the film (70 years prior) is played again and again from different characters’ perspectives to reveal more and more of the mystery. That is the key to the work, a puzzle spinning around and folding in on itself, the circular labyrinth of time… but to say any more would be to give away everything.
The cast, especially the child actors, are fun, believable, and lively. The only flaw, which caught me off-guard, was Dulce’s old age make-up. It looks like a mask and took me out of the movie to worry about the quality of the production and the expressive handicap that the prosthetics might cause the actor. Fortunately my misgivings were soon allayed as I was drawn back into the narrative once the apparitions appear and the involved story construction starts to reveal itself.
The mood of the titular House presents itself with a traditional haunted house look and feel: dark corridors, decaying structures. The camera work and compositions are not stylish, but rather more straightforward. The color grading gives the film an eerie green hue, where many horror films seem to live in contemporary times and tones. The visual elements play second to the structure and storytelling. The focus is on the mystery and the performances as the home forces upon Dulce an unfurling nightmare of fear and confusion.
As of press time The House at the End of Time does not yet have distribution, but I would urge you seek it out on the festival circuit, especially if you are looking for more than empty hallways punctuated with orchestral stings in your horror films. Here there is heart. Here there is a structuralist look at haunted house tropes I have not seen on the screen until now.
in the comments section below!