August 14, 2012

Filthy Review - 'In the House of Flies'

In the House of Flies (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

The impact of a movie, especially horror movies, is so often judged on the violence perpetrated on screen. The emotional impact is often overlooked; instead the amount of bloodshed, gore and severed limbs is how the film is measured. In Gabriel Carrer’s In the House of Flies he manages to make a film that is undeniably violent, yet the violence for the most part is of the psychological type. Do not be mistaken though, this film is harrowing viewing and one that intends to leave scars.

The film opens with Heather and Steve enjoying life; they have not a care in the world. The accompanying soundtrack serves to emphasize this and impacts in a way not too dissimilar to the score in Lucky McKee’s The Woman; you cannot help but notice the thoroughly upbeat nature. With events being this joyous though, there is only one way to go, and that is down. Way down.

From partying and enjoying life, Heather and Steve awaken to find themselves locked in a nondescript basement, with no recollection of how they got there. The couple’s only link to the outside world is a telephone, from which their anonymous captor proceeds to test their resolve and psychologically grind the pair down.

Now, I am sure that you may be thinking that this premise sounds familiar, and to a degree it certainly is. I mean, we have all seen abduction movies, movies where the captives are tortured and even tested; however, In the House of Flies is a different breed of suffering. Aside from the opening and closing 5 minutes or so, the entire movie takes place in the sparse basement. It is here that Carrer skillfully manipulates the camera around this enclosed space, focusing on Heather and Steve’s plight. Slow burn is the order of the day here. If Carrer’s previous movie, If a Tree Falls, was an homage to grindhouse flicks, then In the House of Flies intends to grind you down as a viewer.

As I make mention, this is a violent film, but it is the atmosphere which is violent, the intent, the possibilities of what might happen, rather than overt graphic violence. There are one or two incredibly bloody scenes, one being absolutely heartbreaking and the other being of the good old fashioned violent sort.

Where In the House of the Flies succeeds most for me though is in the questions that get raised; questions about the events and questions I asked myself about the situation. It is this element, and the couple’s situation, that gives this film such an oppressive nature. It really is not a feel good movie at all; it’s damned draining.

Heading up the small cast are Lindsay Smith and Ryan Kotack, as Heather and Steve, and both put in wonderful performances. Every ounce of suffering is plain to see on their faces as they endure their imprisonment. The other main player is Henry Rollins as the voice at the end of the phone, and what a great job he does. His voice is unwavering and undeniably to the point; you know this is not a man to be toyed with.

Another area worth mentioning is the score to the film. Aside from the opening and closing songs, the score is quite excellent. It is unobtrusive and hovers quietly in the background, only on occasion rearing up for dramatic effect. There’s no over-the-top theatrics here, it serves only to heighten the moment and it does it well.

In the House of Flies is undoubtedly a horror film, and an exceptionally good one at that. The violence drips off the screen and punishes the viewer, whilst rarely spilling blood. When the visceral violence does occur it is almost a relief to see, as it takes you away from the utter bleakness that continues throughout the film.

Bleak, brutal and incredibly draining, In the House of Flies is independent cinema that shows what real horror can be, and comes highly recommended. Carrer has delivered a damned fine film.

Look for In the House of Flies to play festivals over the coming year, with a DVD release to come in 2013.

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