The House at the End of Time

The House at the End of Time (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

“The House at the End of Time,” written and directed by Alejandro Hidalgo, is a Venezuelan horror-mystery that constantly evolves. It is able to create a formidable level of suspense, particularly during the first hour when the family is terrorized by a paranormal presence in the house, but viewers who have had plenty of experience with horror films are likely to figure out the supposedly big reveal coming from a mile away. Because I had a strong suspicion of what to expect, the picture, though well-made throughout, was suddenly less thrilling.

The story revolves around Dulce (Ruddy Rodríguez), a woman who has spent thirty years in prison for murdering her husband (Gonzalo Cubero) and son (Rosmel Bustamante)—even though the latter’s corpse was actually never found. Due to old age, the government has allowed Dulce to live out her remaining days in the very same house where she and her family used to live. As she expected, the house is not finished with her because soon enough she starts to feel the same paranormal presence before she was sent to prison.

Beautiful is the manner in which the writer-director is able to seamlessly meld the past and the present. When events in the 1980s make contact with happenings in 2010s, and vice-versa, there is a certain rhythm established that is compelling. It is admirable how at times it employs horror elements, like a character hearing a strange noise and deciding to investigate down the shadowy stairs and into the jet-black basement, to capture the viewers’ attention but it turns out to be something less scary and more curious.

Perhaps the film’s biggest limitation is the use of cosmetics. An argument can be made that the material’s emotional center is the protagonist’s struggles of learning the truth about a three-decade mystery that haunted her throughout her incarceration. Although Rodríguez is a very capable performer, which can be observed during scenes set in the ‘80s, the thick makeup in the ‘10s limits the outcome significantly. Micro-emotions during key silences and important revelations are blocked by layers of awful makeup.

One looks at the elder Dulce and much of her face is almost like a mask; it won’t move with certain attempts at expressing specific emotions. On top of this, the eyes are not at all convincing in their age and, most importantly, experience. Maybe it would have been much better if a real performer of a certain age played the elder Dulce. I would prefer watch an older actor who bears little physicality to another younger actor but through specific gestures, ways of saying certain words or sentences, or even in handling certain pauses we slowly recognize their similarities. With the second half being so invested with delivering layers of complex emotions, the heavy makeup functions like a filter.

“La case del fin de los tiempos” is worth seeing once for unwavering dramatic tension and willingness to play with perspectives as well as with the idea of ghosts being the past coming to haunt us. Although the piece is likely to be considered predictable by those well-versed in the genre, the story is conceived with enough imagination and defined inspirations. The house evokes a very creepy feeling.

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