★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Swedish puzzler The House at the End of the Forest serves up more head scratching than it does hand wringing.
Directed by Jonathan Katzeff
Jonathan Katzeff’s Swedish horror film The House at the End of the Forest (Huset vid skogens slut) starts out with a home invasion angle but morphs into a puzzle box thriller featuring scenes repeated in similar manners but with missing or different elements. The result is a well-acted effort with a reach that exceeds its grasp.
Astrid (Alexandra Alegren) is on the phone with her sister Louise (Andrea Larsdotter) when she is violently attacked by a black-clad masked intruder. Astrid is rushed to the hospital, where a doctor tells Louise that her comatose sister will likely never be the same. Fast forward to an unspecified time later, when Astrid visits her childhood home, where Louise and their mother Stina (Maria Grip) welcome her. Soon, people dressed like the home invader make their presence known.
This is where mystery sets in, along with family drama and, to be honest, some frustration on the part of this viewer. The events unfold at a rather slow pace and the repetition doesn’t help in that department, and when the third act begins hinting heavily as to where the story is headed, it lessened my investment in the characters and the plot.
Alegren does a marvelous job as the frightened, confused, and somewhat paranoid Astrid, and Larsdotter plays off of her well. The technical aspects of the film are all solid, including sharp cinematography from Andres Rignell.
The House at the End of the Forest screens as part of Popcorn Frights, which runs on both the big screen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and online nationwide from August 12–19, 2021. For more information, visit http://www.popcornfrights.com.
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