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John’s Horror Corner: The House at the End of Time (2013), a cerebral house movie that bends time, genres, reality and expectations.

March 11, 2015

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MY CALL:  A cerebral house movie that bends time, genres, reality and expectations.  Venezuela’s #1 thriller of all time is truly a winner.  MOVIES LIKE The House at the End of TimeI’ve seen my share of “house movies” and this one certainly stands out.  House Hunting (2013) and Silent House (2011) utilize effective means of disorienting viewers creating a sense of tension and unease.  Even Oculus (2014) serves as a house movie in the same manner despite its focus on an evil mirror.  House (2008), however, should be skipped altogether.  OTHER TITLE: La Casa del Fin de los Tiempos.

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I recently had the pleasure of viewing this Venezuelan thriller when my girlfriend stumbled across it on Netflix.  Being adventurous about trying new horror movies completely unknown to us—a quality I absolutely adore about her–she did some research and it turns out that this movie was actually a pretty big deal in Venezuela.  Evidently it ranks as the highest grossing thriller (in Venezuela) of all time, selling 700,000 tickets during its 41 week run at the box office—which means that 1 out of every 42 people in the entire country saw this in theaters!  A horror movie!  That’s impressive.  That would be about a $60 million box office gross if 1 in 42 people in the United States saw a movie assuming an $8 ticket (which may be on the low side).  Not bad for first time writer, producer, editor and director Alejandro Hidalgo!

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But even still, I somehow remained skeptical.  After all, Venezuela is a country one-tenth the size of the United States with about 30 million people and loads of tropical forests.  I questioned whether they’ve made enough thrillers (or movies in general) for me to be impressed with their “highest grossing thriller of all time.”  But, being adventurous myself, I submitted to my girlfriend’s desire to see this figuring “we can just watch something else if it’s no good.”  Let’s just say my expectations were very wrong…and hers were right.

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Anyway, at its start I had low expectations.  But, I do like a good “house movie” and the disorienting devices that often accompany them like protean or even labyrinthine architecture and plays on time (flashbacks, haunting visions of the past, actual time lapses).  And a good house movie is exactly what we got!  However, this house movie is far from being cut from the typical mold.  This is neither scarefest nor gorefest.  This is something so much deeper, so much creepier, so much more cerebral.

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The House at the End of Time opens on an ill-fated evening set 30 years in the past when Dulce is convicted of the murder of her husband and missing son.  Then we move to present day, after an elderly Dulce has served 30 years in prison and is returned to her home to serve the remainder of her life under house arrest.  Almost as quickly as she gets home and sits down, she is visited by a priest who tries to help her remember exactly what happened that night 30 years ago.

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Opening scene 30 years ago (ABOVE); Dulce and the Priest (BELOW)

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The pacing was not ideal, often alternating between long scenes of kids playing and intense scenes of marital disorder during the first half of the film.

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We also alternate between scenes from the past and scenes from the present as elderly Dulce wanders her home and begins to remember more…some of which she never recalled even 30 years ago.  At times, she seems to be hallucinating her present day elderly self into these scenes from the past.  But are they hallucinations caused by the house, are they suppressed memories, perhaps they’re her own delusions…or is it all something else?  I even found myself questioning if we’d discover some manner of possession had occurred, or some other form of evil.  Is this house movie or a ghost story?  Is Dulce a ghost!?!?!  Is Dulce guilty or innocent of her family’s murder?  Is this house her own personal Hell where she relives visions of her past sins?  Why is this priest interested in helping her solve the mystery?  So many questions—it’s easy to get carried away.  I wanted answers and so did Dulce (and so did my girlfriend LOL), and none of us cared what it was—as long as we had “an answer.”

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At one point young Dulce visits a medium.  The scene is creepy.

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Now, please make no mistake and please distrust any reviewers who call this film “one of the most scary” movies of whatever.  There are a few effective jumpscare moments, but this movie is more about a steady atmosphere of fear, tension, anticipation and disorientation.  Writer/director Alejandro Hidalgo succeeded in creating a consistently creepy, engaging slow-burn that kept me watching the shadows for evil and thinking at the same time, trying to solve the time-based mystery therein.  Without spoiling anything, I’ll reveal that time is played upon much as it is in Oculus, such that we don’t really know what is the present and what is the past…or future…or are two times meeting one another somehow… or even…. you get the idea.

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It’s also easy to discount movies of apparently low budget.  This film has the complicated story of a book, looks like someone filmed a play (with a huge set and special effects), and feels like a horror-drama-mystery telenovela.

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During the third act of the film some things will make sense, others things maybe not so clearly.  Just be advised that this film will end up proving that it’s a lot more clever than you think it is.  Its story is elaborate to the point that I find no borrowed components from other stories.  No.  This story is unique and, much like its successor Oculus, it thrives on the audience’s fear of the unknown and things that may or may not be revealed.

This film was eerie, unpredictable, disorienting, and it pleasantly surprised me.  Even though it’s a Spanish language film subtitled in English, the pace is casual enough that reading along will not compromise you’re ability to immerse yourself in the story and its chilling atmosphere.

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Don’t be intimidated by subtitles.  Don’t shy away from this foreign movie.  Please, do give this a chance.

 

This article is dedicated to my girlfriend.  She chose this splendid gem, she got me to stick with it and see it through, and she has stuck with me.  Love you, baby.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2015 9:58 am

    A wonderful review. I truly understand and appreciate what you are saying, and I’m glad the movie worked for you. There were many elements I liked about the film, but it was too melodramatic for me, and I even fell asleep on two occasions.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      March 11, 2015 10:02 am

      The melodrama stimulated me because it made me think of a Mexican telenovela. But yes, it was very slow-paced especially in the first half.

  2. Victor De Leon permalink
    March 12, 2015 5:29 pm

    Nice write up, John. Going to track this one down right away. Looks pretty good. Thanks for the head’s up, man!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      March 13, 2015 10:23 am

      I’d never have known about it if my GF hadn’t found it on Netflix.

  3. Victor De Leon permalink
    March 13, 2015 10:43 am

    It is? Cool 👌 will add it now. Thanks!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      March 13, 2015 10:47 am

      Yes. We just saw it this week on Netflix. No clue how long it’s been there. But Monday was the first day we ever saw it in our suggestions.

      • Victor De Leon permalink
        March 13, 2015 10:51 am

        Just added it. Didnt realize I had Housebound in my queue. I moved it up. Just read your review. Looking forward to it. Thanks again 👌🎥

Trackbacks

  1. John’s Horror Corner INDEX: a list of all my horror reviews by movie release date | Movies, Films & Flix
  2. The Damned (2013), a solid premise and great atmosphere that fails to deliver an effective possession movie about an Evil Dead witch. | Movies, Films & Flix

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