★★★ out of ★★★★★
This Chilean haunted house shocker may follow some familiar beats, but its unique filming shoot, solid lead performance, and dark psychological elements help it stand out from the pack.
Directed by Jorge Olguín
Spanish-language Chilean chiller La Casa may at first seem like a simple and somewhat stock approach to a haunted house movie, but considering that it was filmed in real time over three nights by writer/director/sound designer Jorge Olguín, cinematographer Juan Carpintero, and the rest of Olguín’s relatively small cast and crew, the achievement becomes more impressive. The result is a film that starts as an eerie spook house tour and evolves into dark psychological horror.
The character who gets the most screen time by far is policeman Arriagada (Gabriel Cañas), who is on patrol by himself during the Pinochet dictatorship years. Visibly upset by a telephone call with his wife, he is sent to investigate a disturbance at the abandoned Casa Dubois, in real life a Santiago building rumored to be haunted. Unwisely going into the structure by himself with no backup available for quite a while, Arriagada finds himself in the throes of supernatural terror.
Cañas conveys the heightening fear of his character well, carrying the bulk of the film on his back as most other characters are either voices over the phone or police communication lines, or apparitions in and around Casa Dubois. With viewers following Arriagada closely, Cañas gives a solid performance of a man disturbed not only by the unknown but by his own memories.
La Casa is not a found footage film, though it does share some similar traits. Thankfully Carpintero eschews the shaky-cam nonsense for a far less dizzying and much more effective approach that lies somewhere between video game and broadcast news styles. Early on, there is a great deal of the “walking around exploring a creepy house” trope, but Olguín starts up with unsettling imagery and unnerving sound effects early on. A question that I often have regarding films such as this one is why ghosts would bother to appear behind protagonists several times before making themselves known, but along with other haunted house tropes, that one is in full effect in this feature.
Olguín, who also wrote and performed the electronic score for La Casa, has crafted an effective supernatural outing. Recommended, especially for fans of Latin American fright-fare cinema and haunted house enthusiasts, La Casa, from Dread, is available on VOD from January 19, 2021, with the Blu-ray to follow February 2.