“THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME” (Fantasia Movie Review)
A cleverly constructed horror film, Alejandro Hidalgo’s THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME plays like a surprising short story on a rainy evening. A patient, reflective work that’s less concerned with ghosts than with how we haunt ourselves, the Venezuelan feature pores over the nature of regret and personal slights, and comes to a mature conclusion in the process.
HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME opens elegantly, with an atmospheric aftermath toured by the film’s lead Dulce (Ruddy Rodríguez, in a multi faceted performance). Dulce creeps through her gothic home, lantern in hand, searching frantically for her child. As mysterious as it is, the film’s first sequence is not unfamiliar to film fans. What’s there though is a beautiful, eerie air and the fearful longing of this woman, as well as evident talent from Hidalgo. The director establishes the titular construct as colorful and classically spooky, a relief if we’re supposed to spend much of the film within.
And we do. Dulce is led to the corpse of her husband, a murder she’s swiftly convicted of and sentenced years in prison for. Thirty of them on, she’s released and allowed to serve out her punishment under house arrest in the home she’s convinced harbors something evil and otherworldly. Dulce is locked inside; both confined to her home and lost in thought, recalling the domestic drama and metaphysical occurrences that brought her here.
When it stays as such, HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME is at its best. Hidalgo’s scare sequences are as intended to frighten as they are to ignite curiosity, such as when a specter passes an ominous note to Dulce. Rodríguez’s performance as both an elderly Dulce (shining through makeup) and her younger self meanwhile, is an affecting one, and similarly layered. The star is as compelling when she’s under supernatural siege as contending with a frustrating home life, hurting and angry at the inability to provide for her children as well she’d like.
As divided as it is between past and present however, HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME is aesthetically separated as well. When the film shifts focus to Dulce’s children, it suffers. The performances and chemistry from the film’s ensemble of rambunctious adolescents may be delightful, but the visual palette of a soft-focus glory days-haze reads as maudlin throughout.
Thankfully, the film’s emotional center is sound. HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME is entirely about perspective. On a genre tip, its reveals are thrilling new windows into earlier events, lensed from new angles and hidden spots in the maze-like home. What’s more, they’re indicative of thoughtfulness from Hidalgo; a meditation and on the understanding and maturation that comes with old age, or at least with time.