DIRECTOR Alejandro Hidalgo WRITER Alejandro Hidalgo STARS Rosmel Bustamante; Adriana Calzadilla; Simona Chirinos SCREENING Today at 20.45
You’d think there’s not a lot of mileage left in the old-dark-house scenario, but The House at the End of Time is a genuine surprise. Not only is this Venezuelan production genuinely chilling, it offers a new variation on a classic theme, partly through a clever script that pulls the metaphorical rug from beneath the audience’s feet on more than one occasion, and also from a superb lead performance from Ruddy Rodriguez, who takes her character on a 30-year journey through the supernatural.
Writer-director Alejandro Hidalgo shows his influences — there’s a lot of Hammer here, as well as more recent fare like The Others — and creates some real atmosphere, particularly in the opening act when mother Dulce (Rodriguez) searches frantically for her missing child, and instead finds the body of her husband, whose murder she is convicted for. Three decades later she is released under house arrest, locked inside the titular homestead both physically and mentally. As she starts to recall fond memories of the past, with regular visits from a priest in an attempt to restore her faith in God, the truth is gradually revealed through a series of supernatural visits.
When The House at the End of Time works, as it does often, it’s a superbly constructed film with real depth and layers just waiting to be peeled away, with an emotional core often missing from this genre. Told from multiple angles and viewpoints, it’s guesswork until the end, and the film contains several standout set pieces: a séance that throws the screen into complete darkness and relies only on sound — an aspect often criminally overlooked in horror — is guaranteed to raise the heckles. It’s hard to believe this is Hidalgo’s first feature; there’s real talent on display here which marks him as a serious director to watch.