The House at the End of Time (aka La casa La casa del fin de los tiemposis) is the type of movie that is infuriatingly difficult to review. It’s impossible to explore without spoilers so be warned that this review will touch on certain areas that will shine a light on the nature of the mystery that is threaded throughout this cleverly structured film and holds the narrative together.
I’ll start by bluntly stating that this is not a horror movie. It comes dressed as a horror movie and often feels like a horror movie with many of the trappings of the haunted house sub-genre on display. But it is NOT a horror movie. What we have here is a story with a sci-fi/time travel concept at its core masquerading as a fright flick.
This is not to suggest that horror movie fans won’t find much to enjoy from a genre lovers perspective. The movie does contain a satisfying number of scares most of which are, admittedly, of the sudden loud noises variety. However, instead of being a hoary and tired method of making the viewer jump these moments serve an incremental purpose as the story unfolds and provide exclamation marks that support the gradually accumulating evidence that reveals what is truly going on.
The one thing that makes me a little more comfortable in revealing the temporal nature of the mystery is that I can’t honestly imagine anyone not arriving at a suspicion of the direction the movie is going to take within the opening half hour of director Alejandro Hidalgo’s otherwise impressive debut. Besides some moderately clunky but sufferable sub-Spielbergian scenes with child actors this is the only real failure. It’s an area where I feel something could have been done to ensure that the story unfolded with a little more caution and less transparency. Being the work of a first time director/scriptwriter and in the face of everything that does work this is easy to forgive.
The House at the End of Time remains enjoyable despite how predictable it is and the way in which past, present and future events collide in an expertly staged tumult during the closing half hour is a joy to behold. Try as I might I could not detect any part of the chronological confluence that forms the well crafted dénouement that felt misplaced or ill judged. Given how easy it is to mismanage a story such as this and end up with an inexplicable paradox I came away impressed by the skill with which Hidalgo weaved the various elements together to form a solid, watertight whole.
Most of the performances are solid throughout (the exception being some of the children) with most of the focus being on the female protagonist Dulce who spends 30 years in prison after being found guilty of the murder of both her husband Juan José and her child Leopoldo the latter of whom’s body was never found. Ruddy Rodriguez delivers an assured performance both as the middle aged Dulce and as the post-prison, older, more cynical version. She succeeds in the latter despite some underwhelming old age make-up which does a fairly poor job of transforming her convincingly into a septuagenarian. Movies with a far larger budget have stumbled harder in this respect so it is easy to excuse here.
Overall The House at the End of Time wears its influences on its sleeve but nonetheless presents an entertaining and well-constructed assemblage of ideas that carry more than a faint whiff of The Twilight Zone. It’s an impressive debut and counts as my first taste of Venezuelan film-making. I would also urge anyone reading this review to please ignore the cover of the hideous UK DVD release (see above). It misrepresents the film to a degree that is insulting. Hidalgo's debut is far more interesting than the artwork suggest and classier too.