There’s two things you need to know going into the Spanish horror film LA CASA DEL CARACOL (THE HOUSE OF SNAILS).
- There is a severe lack of snails
- The dog doesn’t die
The dog shows up early on, standing on the side of the road like a pointy eared hitchhiker. Author and main character Antonio (Javier Rey) picks him up on his way to the isolated town in the mountains. Suffering writer’s block, Antonio has booked himself a month in a strange house, in an even stranger town.
Things will get very weird. And violent. But the dog won’t die.
THE HOUSE OF SNAILS starts relatively slowly. Antonio drives to town, he’s given some ominous warnings by the town folk. Curses, ancient traditions. He ignores them. Or rather, he starts writing their stories into his new book.
From there, things get a bit wonky. And part of that is probably me relying on subtitles, and missing some of the context. There’s scenes of Antonio working, and then sudden cuts to him walking through the picturesque mountain woods. There are also some jokes that are lost in translation. I was reminded of one of those slow moving, artsy horror films that SBS plays late at night. But I was intrigued, and the dog was cute, so I kept watching.
I’m really glad I did. HOUSE OF SNAILS builds its tension quietly, so that you barely notice. It’s incredibly atmospheric. I went from ‘what the hell is happening’ to ‘oh no, I really hope THAT ISN’T happening’. It plays with dreams and hallucinations, as well as character interactions, to make you wonder where the nightmare ends and reality begins.
By the time the bodies started piling up, I was really quite engrossed. The slow beginning definitely works in the film’s favour, but a viewer will have to be patient. And ideally be fond of meandering folk horrors, with entire casts of characters who behave very oddly.
The film is slow to reveal mysteries, and a little silly at times. You don’t see much gore, but your imagination fills in the rest.
As a film, THE HOUSE OF SNAILS is the right kind of strange. It’s a beautiful folk horror, and monster movie, with a touch of murder mystery. There’s also some really amazing and horrific makeup artistry on display. The location is picturesque, the plot entertaining, and the characters are incredibly odd. I’m excited to see what director Macarena Astorga does next.
It’s enjoyable enough for a casual viewer, but also weird enough for the artsy horror monster fans. If you are willing to be patient, and accept this film’s quirks, you’ll have a lot of fun.
And no one is safe. Except the dog.
LA CASA DEL CARACOL (THE HOUSE OF SNAILS) is screening as a part of the Moro Spanish Film Festival! Click here to find out more.