Director – Alejandro Hidalgo
Starring- Ruddy Rodriguez, Gonzalo Cubero, Guillermo Garcia
Running Time – 101 Minutes
Starting the Grimmfest full day proceedings in style and at the early time of 10.30am, is the first horror film feature to come out of Venezuela and comes off as a very good strong supernatural thriller, with nods to films such as THE OTHERS and to the work of Mario Bava, all the while carrying a distinct South American style that cannot really be replicated by any other continent’s cinema.
Thirty years after being convicted of the murder of her family, Dulce (Rodriguez) is released on parole and put under house arrest in her former home, where the tragedy took place. Dulce is trying to re-piece the incidents of that night, as she claims her innocence in murdering her husband and the disappearance of one of her sons. Despite her lapse of faith in the Catholic Church she recounts the events to a visiting priest (Garcia) who wants to hear her story.
We slip in between present and past as Dulce tries to connect what happened with the strange occurrences currently disturbing her, while she remains alone in the creepy mansion, which her and her husband had bought for very little in a government auction. It’s only through the priest’s researching that they discover the chequered and tragic history that the house holds, and through a series of bizarre incidents Dulce, reconnects with the past and has an opportunity to change it.
Carrying the distinct style of having melodrama, supernatural thriller and even a case of time bending narrative, THATEOT successfully and ingeniously scares it’s viewer as well as keeping them hooked on the unfolding narrative. It’s not a dull ride and along with some superbly handled jump moments, the film is both an intelligent and consummate supernatural thriller alongside being a study of the nature of regret and the need for closure. Dulce is left inside the house, not allowed to leave the building or grounds and only has the past to think upon, and to desperately search for the answer to why one of her children disappeared on the night of her husband’s murder, and to end the years of torment she experienced in jail, by at least finding an answer.
Admittedly the film does lose some ground in the scenes involving Dulce’s children in the past causing trouble, and feuding over a girl the two brother characters both fancy, and do slightly fall into a sentimental, days gone past mode, though they do eventually serve a purpose to eventually highlight a tragedy that unfolds. The time travel or rather narrative that crosses scenes between two different periods of time (without giving too much important plot away), also at first takes a while to accept and personally feel that I would like to go back to this on a second viewing as I wasn’t fully convinced it worked. Though admittedly this is only a slight setback as the layout of these scenes work well, and keep the viewer tightly involved in the story up until it’s final conclusion.
The time travel narrative and even the element of the history of the house, which we discover also, lend a slight Lovecraftian style to the film. Performance wise Rodriguez is fantastic as Dulce, in both her present and past roles. The past carrying a figure of a women who is a strong mother character, trying to cope with her husband’s lack of being the main breadwinner and dealing with her two children, as well as the dark and haunting troubling goings on in the house, and her present figure looking frail, white haired and broken by the years lost in jail, with only the creepy house as company but also determined to seek out closure.
THATEOT, as mentioned before carries a unique and distinct style to it that can only really be found in Latin American cinema, and not replicated anywhere else, even in an American remake (we’ll see how long it takes for that to come about), as it juggles a fantastic supernatural story along with strong narrative juxtaposition between past and present and some superb performances especially from its main lead, in creating a distinctly normal but tragic character that holds our attention, and also superb direction from Hidalgo, who keeps pulling tricks on the viewer that doesn’t insult their intelligence but rather keeps us engaged to the end that lend substance to the film.