Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet
In the House of Flies
Edited and directed by Gabriel Carrer
Parade Deck Films / Bleeding Apple /
Black Fawn Films / Latefox Pictures
Black Fawn Films / Latefox Pictures
89 minutes, 2012 / 2014
In my youth, I was a huge fan of comix like Eerie and Creepy (Archie Goodwin was my fave). As much as I enjoyed them, I was also a fan of their brain-damaged cousins, the stranger ones that were the low-run rip-offs that reprinted no-name author and artist EC Comics-like tales of murder and mayhem from the 1950s or so. There was one story I remember where this “scientist” kept young couples in love in cages, starving them and meting out just bits of food, and seeing how long it would take for them to turn on each other. I was reminded of that particular tale with this one.
This is also a good example of how one film can be influenced by another, and yet still shine on its own. The premise smacks of Iron Doors (2010; sans the sci-fi element) and the moralizing of Saw (2004) without the brain cancer reasoning, mixed with the television game shows “Deal or No Deal” or “Fear Factor,” but it remains raw and draws the viewer into a ring of hell.
It’s 1998, and a young pre-engaged couple are having fun at Niagara Falls (the Canadian side, of course; if you’ve been there, you know what I mean). They are kidnapped and awaken in a plain basement with a tiny window, a bunch of locked suitcases, and someone giving them directions by voice only on a phone that cannot dial (you heard me) out. I kept expecting someone to say, “Let’s play a game” (actually, at almost the hour point, it is indeed stated).
Over the following days, the two captors make their presence known: Mr. Arm (Ry Barrett) and The Voice (almost instantly recognizable to me as Henry Rollins) are both treating them like dogs (“Apologize”; “No more damage”) mixed with non-religious sermonizing memes (“Envy creates silent enemies”; “You should have taken care of him/her”) on how to be a better person (to Rise Above? Sorry…). While slowly starving them, with just small amounts of food in suitcases that they get to open every few days, the tasks assigned them get harder and harder. No, I won’t reveal any of them, but it is pretty obvious he is watching and listening in to their conversations.
The guy is Stephen (Ryan Kotack), who is a mild looking dude, but full of masculinist behaviours, subtly ordering his mate around and treating her poorly at times (in my opinion; general consensus probably would not see it); he also reacts violently against his “host” in ways that would not help in the big picture. Heather (Lindsey Smith) is placed in the position of subservient to both Steven and The Voice. Smith comes across as a strong woman in a role that makes her the object of both verbal and physical abuse, more so than Steven. Honestly, it pissed me off.
It is made clear that Heather and Stephen are not the first couple chosen for this conundrum (“You’re worse than the others” The Voice tells Heather), so surely then he must know that people cannot survive without water for more than three-to-five days. In the meanwhile, there would be renal shutdown, illness, cramps, hallucinations, etc., few of which are present here after denied water for four days straight, at one point.
The big question about what is happening to our lovebirds is a big why. Is it sadism? Were they hired to take care of them? It sure seemed like they were targeted from the opening scene. Personally, I wasn’t satisfied with the answer, but don’t worry, again, I won’t discuss it and give anything away. Not seeing the bad guys is a nice choice even though it leads more to confusion than conclusion, but I’m guessing that is part of the point, eh? Oh, did I mention it is a Canadian film, shot it Guelph, Ontario?
Despite the whining by me, the film has a really good look, both set and camera-wise, and the lighting and sound are nicely handled, as well. While the editing is also interestingly paced, at the same time, there might have been a bit more terseness if the film was a bit shorter. Okay, philosophically, I believe I understand the thought behind it, since long-held shots add to the tension in a world that has gotten accustomed to bam-bam editing. By the halfway point, however, my tension had turned a bit to tedium on some level, and I really wanted to skip a bit, but this reviewer don’t play that. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a tension of the action, but one of ennui as I kept saying, “Oh, c’mon, this is gender normative even for 1988.”
Despite the phone calls, the film is essentially Heather and Stephen, and both actors do quite fine work. Considering it’s the first (but hardly the last) credit on their IMDB profile, that’s saying a lot. I look forward to seeing them both again in the future.
The first extra is a 40-minute Making Of called “A Fly on the Wall.” It is interesting in parts, but it’s really self-indulgent to expect the viewer to watch that much detail about production. The second is 7-1/2 minutes of the film’s premiere in Spain of all places, at the Bilbao Fantasy Film Festival, that is more a travelogue than anything. Then there is the trailer, some stills, six whatever deleted scenes that average just over a minute apiece, and an English captions option (for which I’m always grateful). The DVD box says there is also a commentary track, but I didn’t find it, quite honestly.
I want to warn couples, do not see this film as a “date,” unless you are accustomed to watching genre types, because I can almost guarantee that a fight will ensue. “What would you do in this situation? Would you hit me? Would you make me hit you?” You see where I’m going, I hope.
Lastly, I should add that this film has been shown at a number of festivals, and has been highly praised by other reviewers.