In the House of Flies, directed by Gabriel Carrer and starring Henry Rollins, Ryan Kotack, and Lindsay Smith, begins with a young couple, Heather and Steven, who are taken by force and locked in a basement. There is no way out; only a single window to give them a view of where they are located. In order to survive, Heather and Steven have to participate in various sick mind games that are provided by their abductor. If he is satisfied by their performance, he gives them a combination to a suitcase that may or may not contain food. Locked away in this basement with very little supplies; just a phone that can only be answered, various locked suitcases, a window, and a bucket.
In the House of Flies had a solid start and it does a great job creating a genuine 80s vibe. Starting with great upbeat music and a view of a boardwalk, we are introduced to Heather and Steve. Everything seems happy and exciting, working to set-up the characters pre-abduction, which will take place later that night. The abduction is quick and unexpected; it gave me high hopes that the movie would keep the pace, unfortunately however, it did not.
The film, however, slows down quite a bit after the abduction. It grows quiet as they spend a couple of days in that basement without much action. Upon reflection of the film, I did find myself comparing it to Saw (the abductor even asks them if they want to play a game). However, this is not your average torture porn film. Despite the fact that some forms of torture are present here, there is no doubt that In the House of Flies is a different breed. It seems that it focuses more on claustrophobia and the human need to survive. Most of the film takes place in the basement and it does not take long for the viewer to become just as disoriented as the characters on the screen.
One of the problems of In the House of Flies is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any moral to the story. There was no real reason as to why the abductor is torturing Steven and Heather. Further, we do not get much of a backstory for any of the characters. On the other hand, the phone calls made to the tormented couple are enough for any Henry Rollins fan to stay interested. These phone calls are full of small one-liners that seem to be perfect for Rollins and his character. He seems extremely focused on proving to Steven that he is not able to provide for his girlfriend and the family he wants to have with her. In the House of Flies spent a lot of time ensuring that we see them lose a little more hope with each day. I loved the way the abductor’s words chipped away at any resistance either of them had.
Again, the film would not have been as successful as it can be if Ryan Kotack and Lindsay Smith were not such skilled actors. Their performances give the film a realistic feel. They genuinely sound weak and hungry. When they are forced to perform various acts by the abductors in order to get food, they sound terrified. It was easy for me to imagine exactly how they were feeling and I started to feel just as hopeless as they did. I found myself wondering how they were going to deal with the things that were happening to them. It was easy to believe their reactions to each phone call. In the House of Flies made things seem more realistic and I applaud the director for this feat, especially when considering the small budget they had to work with. The dirty room, the howling of coyotes, the sound of various bugs, and the cramped space all did wonders to add to the atmosphere of the film.
Ultimately, the major critique of the film is its slow pacing. There are times when I wished something would happen and I found myself just wishing for another phone call from the abductor. I think it took too long for the main events to play out. In addition, the film ends in a strange way, leaving a lot to be desired. I did like the fact that everything still seemed depressing and bleak after In the House of Flies ended. Despite some of the film’s flaws, there is no doubt about the quality of this film. The style, environment, and mysterious abductor who isn’t really shown on screen add the much needed layers to an otherwise dull movie.
In the House of Flies is available on DVD through MVD