Writer: Alejandro Hidalgo
Cast: Ruddy Rodriguez, Rosmel Bustamante, Gonzalo Cubero, Hector Mercado, Guillermo Garcia
Cert: 15 TBC
Running time: 101mins
The lowdown: Venezuelan horror hits the international stage in style with this unpredictable, eerie chiller. Former Miss Venezuela Ruddy Rodriguez is Dulce, a woman who has served thirty years for the murder of her husband and son. Released under house arrest to her home where the grisly events occurred, things soon start going bump in the night. But, is there more here than meets the eye? Polished, moving, and with shocks designed to launch you out of your seat.
The full verdict: A confident, clever spin on the haunted house tale, Alejandro Hidalgo’s The House at the End of Time is a delight.
Deftly shifting between genres, the writer/director is adept with horror, mystery, melodrama and kids’s adventure in a film that should garner him Hollywood interest (the remake rights have already been snapped up).
In a pre-credit jolt, Dulce finds her husband (Cubero) dying on the floor and her son Leopoldo (Bustamante) snatched away by a mysterious force.
2011 – after her three decade incarceration, Dulce returns home to serve out her sentence and to solve the mystery of what happened that night and where Leopoldo has been for the past thirty years.
Helping her in this is a kindly priest (Garcia) who refuses to believe Dulce could kill her child. Not helping are forces that return to torment her once more.
Constructed as a series of long flashbacks leading up to that fateful night and 2011 sequences depicting the elderly woman searching for answers to her son’s disappearance, The House at the End of Time is a fascinating mystery-chiller that keeps you guessing through various twists and turns.
Not knowing too much before going in is part of the thrill, the film has fun returning to events over and over, being as much a meditation on memory, regret and perception as ghostly shocks.
The work of Guillermo del Toro favourite H.P. Lovecraft is paid hefty homage through repeated imagery of keyholes, doorways, gates and subterranean staircases, all of which provide clues from other worlds. Room is also made for subtle social commentary – the house was sold cheap by the government to a family wanting to improve their social status, but instead it keeps them poor and in their place.
Hidalgo proves himself expert at gradually escalating terror: a nocturnal set-piece as apparitions terrify Dulce, Leopoldo and her younger son Rodrigo (Mercado) invites comparisons with Robert Wise’s The Haunting or Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others.
The cast never strike the wrong note, Bustamante and Mercado being likeably boisterous, while Rodriguez, even under exaggerated aging make-up, commands the film with a performance of fragility and strength.
With a dash of fairytale dust sprinkled over the script (strong mother, troubled father, siblings at the end of innocence, foreboding abode), this has something for everyone looking for surprising and scary fantasy filmmaking.
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