I decided to play another game of Netflix Roulette today. After letting the wheel spin for four seconds (today’s magic number) I landed on another film I had never heard of: 2014’s The House at the End of Time. I’ve decided that watching something I’ve never heard of is not such a bad thing. It allows me to watch a movie without any preconceived notions or assumptions. In fact, this inspired to me to add another rule to this game. Specifically, I will no longer read the synopsis of the film before starting. I know these synopses are short and generally give away very little, but in the end they do give you enough information to affect the viewing experience. So, from here on out I will be avoiding them. Now, that’s not to say that I will go into each experience completely blind. No matter how hard I try I will have three pieces of information: the title, the “cover art” Netflix displays, and the user rating (unfortunately, this is nearly impossible to avoid since Netflix places it right next to the title…and it’s bright yellow). In the end, you may think this isn’t much, but, in fact, these three pieces of data allow you to come up with some pretty detailed hypotheses. For example, for today’s film I’ve determined that this will be a relative well received (based on the four-star review) haunted-house film (based on the “cover art” of the spookily lit house) and that the concept of time will play an important part in the plot of the film (I mean, come on, they use the word “time” in the title… that’s never by accident). I won’t say whether or not my hypothesis was accurate, as I’m trying to avoid spoilers. The important thing to take away from this is that even after trying hard to enter the film blind, I have quite a few preconceived ideas working against me.
Once again, I was not enthused about the possibility of watching another haunted-house movie. They are not my favorite sub-genre of horror. To be completely honest, I think it’s an area of horror that has been completely played out… they have one of the most predictable plot structure. Well, I have to say that two out of my three experiences this week (Housebound and this film) are making me start to reconsider my position. I’m not about to say that this sub-genre is perfect… however, I may update my old stance to say that “mainstream” haunted-house movies are played out (see the new Poltergeist for more evidence). The good haunted-house movies seem to be those low budget foreign films. Okay, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself… I’ve only watched three movies… that is far too small of a sample size. What I can say is that The House at the End of Time (mostly) avoids the failings of your typical haunted-house films. I’m not saying it was the perfect movie (there are some faults I will discuss below) but I will say the last third of the movie had me completely hooked.
I’m guessing most of you haven’t heard of this film either, so let me start with a (spoiler-free) summary. A woman wakes up on the floor of her house bloody and bruised. She begins to search for her husband and son. She finds her husband dead with a kitchen knife sticking out of his neck. She continues searching and eventually finds her son standing in a dark hallway… she calls out to him… he begins to walk forward and is immediately pulled backwards into the darkness by some unseen entity. She continues to search, unsuccessfully for her son, and eventually falls to her knees crying. We then cut to a voiceover of a judge sentencing her to the “maximum sentence” for murdering her husband and son. She is led into a prison cell. There is another cut, and we are informed that it is thirty years later. The woman (in really bad old-lady makeup) is being led back to her old house where she will serve the remainder of her sentence (apparently life?) under house arrest. So, you may be worried that I am giving away too much of the plot… but, that’s literally just the first five minutes of the film.
The movie starts whip fast and then slooooooows down. The next hour and forty minutes is spent mostly inside the house… which, may be haunted. The movie alternates between the present and the past, telling the story of what happened the night the movie began on. There are also scenes of her sons as kids (yes, I know that I used the singular above, but that’s not a misprint), in an almost coming-of-age subplot (some scenes seem almost directly taken from the Sandlot). These scenes seem out of place at first, but I assure you it all connects.
By the one hour mark I have to admit that I was bored with the movie. I felt it was just your run-of-the-mill haunted-house movie. There was the obligatory library-reference scene, in which the history of the house is investigated; lots of arms reaching out of lots of places to grab lots of extremities; and a creepy spiritualist who attempts to contact the spirts of the house. All-in-all, nothing original. Then, right around the one hour mark there is a turn that grabbed me and hooked me for the last forty minutes. I literally wrote “I’m one board now” in my notebook, and that was my last note since I didn’t want to take my eyes off the screne. I won’t say what the turn is, but I will say, if you don’t mind subtitles (it’s a Venezuelan film), a slow (really slow and predictable) middle section, and several haunted-house clichés, the movie (eventually) rewards your patience.
That’s enough for now.
See you tomorrow,