My weekend Black Fawn-a-thon continues with Saturday’s look at In the House of Flies!
A lot of the Black Fawn movies that I’ve seen have some degree of paranormal or supernatural element to them, so I was totally unprepared for the psychological gut punch that is In the House of Flies.
I have always been one that finds psychological horror to be the scariest. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my fair share of gore and goop. I love me a good monster movie. Ghosts usually put me over the moon. And, of course, who doesn’t like a good, scary alien now and again?
But there is something so scary about a flesh and blood, human madman. These are always the ones that have me checking the backseat for one simple reason. You see the monster movie and sure, you’re scared, but you also had a blast, and you can laugh it off because it’s not your reality. But the stories about a madman….those are the ones that get under your skin and thinking, “That could happen to me.”
In the House of Flies follows young couple Steven and Heather through a lovely summer evening out, ending with them getting in their car only to be drugged and locked in a basement. What follows is an intense, gripping view of them as they struggle to survive through their abductor’s twisted game.
It’s a plot device that has been used thousands of times, to varying degrees of success, in horror cinema over the years. So what makes In the House of Flies stand out from the rest of the pack?
What makes this one so disturbing is the fact that we never, ever leave the room. We are trapped in there with this couple. They communicate with their captor through a rotary phone, and they periodically hear him moving around upstairs, but the audience knows exactly as much as the rats in the maze do. We are given glimpses of the outside world through what the captor says, but as we never see it, we don’t know if we can trust it. For example, he tells them that he saw on the news that the search for them has been called off, people assuming that they’ve run off together. We have no idea if this is true, but have a front seat view of what this information does to these poor kids’ psyches.
What makes this one feel so real is that it feels like real people in a real situation. There are no moments of hysteria, no screaming matches, no moment in which they say things to each other that they can’t take back. They are a couple who love each other and are happy…when their relationship is put to the test there are no cliched moments where simmering resentments rise to the surface, or a big, predictable climactic moment where all is forgiven. There was nothing to forgive…they are just two average people put in a horrible situation, and are doing their best to get out of it.
The captor is voiced by the great Henry Rollins, who adds a ton of creepy personality to a person you never see. The premise is a little like Jigsaw in the Saw franchise…he is going for a little introspection. The difference is you get the sense that this guy is not that committed to the rules of his game….at no point did I believe that he would act on his repeated promises to let them go if they did what he asked. I also appreciated that at no point did I feel that this guy was superhuman, or demonic, or super strong. He was a person. A very sick person, who was tormenting other people not that different from him for his own amusement.
Set in the 80s, this one takes full advantage of the time period to make it look very gritty and retro. The soundtrack is sparse but effective in creating an 80s horror flick vibe, and features some music from Canadian 80s greats Saga and Brighton Rock.
Overall, this is one that really hit the mark for a psychological thriller. It was solidly and believably acted, and kept me guessing as to what would happen next. B+ for effective emotional scarring!