Director: Alejandro Hidalgo
Writers: Alejandro Hidalgo, Alejandro Hidalgo
Stars: Miguel Angel Pacheco, Rosmel Bustamante, Adriana Calzadilla
The House at the End of Time has been heralded in some quarters as the first Venezuelan horror film; I’m not sure if that’s true, but it’s certainly a decent little suspense film whatever the case. It was also extremely successful across the whole of Latin America, becoming the highest-grossing domestic thriller in its home country and also doing well across countries including Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. It hasn’t, however, had a great deal of distribution in the English speaking world, where it’s mostly emerged with little fanfare on DVD, and it certainly wouldn’t be a huge surprise if a Hollywood remake was to appear at some point in the future.
The plot is one of those quantum style time-paradox affairs, in which events from the future conflict with those in the past and the audience is left trying to figure out exactly what’s going on in the present. It’s an increasingly popular form of narrative and particularly so for Hispanic filmmakers, with other examples including Timecrimes (which is the obvious model here), Open Grave and even The Others. Dulcie (Ruddy Rodríguez) lives in a big, run down house that was bought on the cheap from the local authorities by her out-of-work husband Juan José (Gonzalo Cubero). There are strange incidents and then, one day, the inexplicable happens: Juan José is found dead, their eldest child Leopoldo (Rosmel Bustamante) disappears and Dulcie is presumed guilty of double murder and sentenced to thirty years in prison. The rest of the film is split between events after her release as she and a local priest try to piece together the history of the house and a flashback to the events of the fateful night as Dulcie perceived them. The two strands are not disconnected.
Although this might not have the polish of the best modern Spanish horror films – it suffers from some variable performances and an occasionally washed out look – it’s still a gripping and intriguing affair. The narrative – given the innately paradoxical nature of the subject matter – inevitably becomes confused and there are some cultural elements, such as its old school religious subtext, which might grate for an international audience. But these are minor quibbles and, considering that it cost just $300k, it stands up as a considerable triumph.