In the House of Flies: Film Review
A couple is mentally tortured by an unseen psychopath while locked in a dank basement in Gabriel Carrer's horror film.
Few horror films are as claustrophobic as Gabriel Carrer’s virtual two-hander about a couple tormented by an unseen psychopath while locked in a dank basement. Set almost entirely within the confines of the insect-laden setting which provides the title, In the House of Flies is an intriguing if ultimately overly derivative effort.
Ryan Kotack and Lindsay Smith play the central roles of Steve and Heather in the 1988-set film, which begins with the happy couple enjoying an evening at a carnival. Shortly after returning to their car, they are rendered unconscious, only to wake up in a small basement room containing only a smattering of suitcases and, more menacingly, a telephone.
It isn’t long before the couple begins receiving calls by a mysterious figure (voiced by punk rocker/actor/spoken word artist Henry Rollins) who begins taunting them with menacing, often oblique questions (“How many layers does an onion have?” he enquires) and mind games that include instructions to do such things as burn themselves and physically assault each other. Revealing a personal knowledge of their captors, including a particular secret that won’t be revealed here, his motives are never spelled out.
As the days drag on and the couple begins to experience the effects of a lack of food and water—their captor has thoughtfully provided at least a dead rat for their nourishment—their psychological defenses begin to crumble and things turn ever bleaker.
Angus McLellan’s screenplay is tightly constructed and contains intriguing elements, but it’s ultimately too amorphous to have the desired impact. The sluggishly paced proceedings often feel disjointed, and the perfunctory ending disappoints. It also doesn’t help that the film follows in the wake of the Saw franchise, which explored similar territory, albeit in far more explicitly violent and sensationalistic fashion.
Still, director Carrer succeeds in delivering an atmosphere of sustained tension. Newcomers Kotack and Smith deliver admirably lived-in performances that make fully convincing their characters’ growing sense of despair, and Rollins, while his voice is perhaps too familiar to enable us to suspend our disbelief, delivers a chillingly subtle vocal turn. The film also benefits from Claudio Manni’s cinematography which makes skillful use of the limited setting and the quietly spooky musical score by Steve MacDougall.
Opens May 9 (Parade Deck Films)
Production: Bleeding Apple, Black Fawn Films, MKD Cinema
Cast: Ryan Kotack, Lindsay Smith, Henry Rollins, Ryan Barrett
Director/editor: Gabriel Carrer
Screenwriter: Angus McLellan
Producers: Chad Archibald, Gabriel Carrer, Nathan Hawkins, Dave McLeod
Director of photography: Claudio Manni
Production designer: Vincent Moskowec
Composer: Steve MacDougall
Not rated, 89 min.