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A haunting ode to classic horror that blends witchcraft and Lovecraft, “House of Screaming Glass” is a masterclass in minimalist terror.

House of Screaming Glass

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An unnerving opening scene, fraught with eerie visuals and audio, sets the stage for the nightmare to come. An achingly slow pan portends a terrifying reveal, but the real horror will not be revealed until director and writer David R. Williams has had his wicked way with you.

Right out of the gate, two things are abundantly clear.

House of Screaming Glass, co-written by Costanza Bongiorni and Tom Jolliffe, promises to be a stylish chamber piece and a haunting slow burn that demands patience and the viewer’s undivided attention.

Amidst an eerie quiet and black screen followed by a long drive along a desaturated landscape, a twenty-seven-year-old woman, Elizabeth Cadosia (Lani Call) introduces herself via voiceover — a narrative device that will frame the entire story. Following the death of her mother, Elizabeth inherited her grandmother’s secluded schoolhouse with attached living quarters, along with some money to ensure she could live comfortably in her new home.

Elizabeth questions why her grandmother, whom she never met, owns a schoolhouse and why she leaves it to someone she has no relationship with.

Her hushed, soft-spoken narration closely resembles ASMR. She maintains this dulcet tone throughout the film as a sharp contrast to the quickly unfolding chaos.

Immediately upon entering the vast estate, disorienting and jarring camera movements put us on edge, conveying a sense of otherworldly influence.

Sleeping in a sparsely decorated room with striking pops of Argento-esque red, including ravishingly red sheets, she’s awakened from a troubling nightmare the first night in her new home.

Painfully quiet moments teeming with tension are interlaced with a discordant score that makes you feel like you’re coming out of your skin. An early drawn-out piano scene is so understated but excruciatingly uncomfortable, even before the real horror creeps in.

Rest assured, when it does finally creep in, it’s utterly harrowing.

Elizabeth’s world unravels slowly but ever so surely as strange oddities give way to increasingly terrifying visions, with her mental and physical health deteriorating at every dark turn. More intentionally shaky and spasmodic camera work helps convey Elizabeth’s mounting anxiety as she rushes to take pills to calm her nerves. Soon, she becomes consumed with uncovering the secrets her grandmother left behind and the alluring draw of black magic.

The escalating ugliness of the schoolhouse is contrasted with a few stunning shots of the world outside the school and in the tranquil, surreally quiet little town.

House of Screaming Glass plays out like a ferocious fever dream.

You’re never quite sure what’s real or imagined, as if you’re trapped in the broken psyche of the film’s entrancing lead.

The captivating Call isn’t just the lead; she’s the only character, carrying the entire weight of the film on her capable shoulders. Clever visual effects show her unraveling, but Call’s extraordinary ability to emote with her face and physicality does most of the heavy lifting.

It’s a stripped-down affair, but the set design and artifacts show exquisite attention to detail, including a creepy photo album, a journal of strange scribblings, and a Necronomicon-inspired black magic book. The practical effects are stellar, and the film is laced with some wonderfully executed, difficult-to-watch body horror.

At times, I squirmed in my seat, contorting my body in horror and disgust. Yet, I remained mesmerized by my discomfort, unable to look away.

It’s beautiful to see such a dynamic woman-driven film where the lead is not objectified but allowed to explore the depth of her emotional and physical complexity. There’s a sensual, erotically charged shower scene that refrains from any gratuitous nudity, which is quite remarkable and appreciated.

An ultra-low-budget exercise in creative filmmaking and impressive craftsmanship, Williams and his crew are superbly adept at maximizing the horrifying impact of their minimalist approach.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4
HOUSE OF SCREAMING GLASS lands on VOD and DVD on May 21st.

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