Fantasia 2021 Review: GLASSHOUSE, Lyrical Dystopian Thriller And The Betrayal of Memories
In a desolate wasteland there is an oasis and in this oasis there is a glass house. In this glass house there lives four women, Mother and her daughters Bee, Evie and Daisy. With them is their brother Gabe and they live shut off from the world, protecting themselves from a dementia-inducing toxin called the Shred. Highly potent, mere minutes of exposure to the Shred can erase a lifetime of memories.
Despite the hostile world outside this oasis the family lives in balance and harmony
Mother maintains decorum and order while Evie has taken it upon herself to hold onto what memories they have. She pays close attention to their brother Gabe, a victim of the toxin. Daisy is inquisitive and curious while the eldest daughter Bee is a frivolous romantic. The tranquility of their lives is broken with the arrival of the stranger who they let live. Harmony turns to tension and mistrust as this Stranger infiltrates their ranks. Who and what is betraying whom is the question. This stranger? Or their own memories?
Glasshouse is perfect for those who favor menace, tension and terror over physical horror. It is a good art house horror flick, a lyrical dystopian tale with shades of gothic melodrama. Driven by character interactions and rising tension it is a slow burn story that suits those who like to take things slow.
Scenes of field dressing interrupt the battles of wills happening in the story. That is the full extent of horrific scenes that act as visual kicks to your cortex, reminders of the dangers that exist outside of this sanctuary. Use of firearms and blunt force trauma make up for the rest of the sparingly used violence in Glasshouse. Sparingly for these are not the focus of Glasshouse though they will remind us of the growing threat inside the sanctuary.
Everyone on the cast is on point but we’d like to draw focus on Anja Taljaard and Hilton Pelser. We were very impressed with the strength and determination portrayed by Taljaard. We were equally impressed and aghast with Pelser’s portrayal of the Stranger, a loathe full character that they cannot take their eyes off of and we cannot stop looking at.
We really appreciated the production design of Glasshouse as well. The glasshouse is a beautiful setting in itself. More of a greenhouse than anything else, the ladies have created stained glass windows that tell stories of their pasts, to help them remember. The work of production designer Kerry Van Lillien, whose first gig was Neil Marshall's Doomsday of all films, lies somewhere within the steampunk realm. The costume design by newcomer Catherine McIntosh compliments that as well, with cool getups that keep the Shred out.
All of it places Glasshouse in an indeterminable era. It could be in the Victorian or Edwardian ages, it could be in the modern era as well. The end of days can do that to you. It is not a mystery that needs to be solved per se, it simply looks great and tips of our hats have been given.
There is a conflict in this home, one between holding on to their past and accepting their future through wilfully forgetting. But is everyone holding onto memories, or secrets? The Stranger uses their doubt, their disability, their copious passion, all of this and more against each other to weasel his way into the home. It is a lesson in manipulation.
Finally, not content to allow the unfolding tragedy to simply play itself out, director Kelsey Egan closes out their film with one exclamation point, a fateful moment to snatch a gasp from their audience.