Set almost completely in a single concrete room, In the House of Flies may not have the most confined setting of all time — that honor surely belongs to Buried, which which was set entirely inside a coffin — but it’s certainly not recommended for the claustrophobic. After being abducted, happy, almost-engaged Heather (Lindsay Smith) and Steve (Ryan Kotack) wake up in a small concrete room containing a rotary telephone and four locked suitcases. Soon they receive a call from their mysterious abductor (voiced by hardcore legend Henry Rollins, literally phoning in his performance), who engages the couple in a series of torturous mind games.
You may be getting strong whiffs of Saw at this point, and you wouldn’t be wrong if that’s the case. But In the House of Flies wisely eschews the goriness of Saw for a more psychological approach. (If you’re searching for gore, you should look elsewhere because this is a mostly bloodless affair.) The film also changes the dynamic at play; whereas Saw was a film about what you would be willing to do to a stranger in order to survive, In the House of Flies is about what you would be willing to do to yourself to save someone you love. The film constructs a series of psychological stand-offs, and, despite the film’s obvious budget limitations, director Gabriel Carrer generally knows where to place the camera and when to move it to milk a scene. Despite the film’s limited setting, he manages to pull off some tense moments.
Unfortunately, tension, like many aspects of the film, is inconsistent. The acting is solid and only occasionally hits the wrong notes. The writing is much better than one generally expects from a tiny-budget horror movie, but as a whole the screenplay is rather shapeless. At times, the look of the film is nice and shadowy, but just as often it looks underlit and with an overabundance of color correction.
But inconsistency is to be expected when a film is dealing with technical and budget limitations, as In the House of Flies surely was. Perhaps the bigger issue is that the film doesn’t quite seem to know what it’s about. The abductor’s psychological gamesmanship never lands on a consistent theme. He interrogates the couple about all manner of issues — their love for each other, Steve’s role as provider and protector, their will to survive — but never pinpoints their weaknesses. He is a gamemaster without much of a gameplan. And so the film, despite some strong elements, is ultimately a muddle.
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