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Review: The Wolf House (Joaquin Cocina and Cristobal Leon)

Joaquin Cocina and Cristobal Leon take us on a descent into the dark heart of delusion in The Wolf House, a stop-motion horror movie whose horrors are unveiled so gradually, so naturally, so diegetically amid a scene of constantly fluctuating oddness and psychological anguish, that you barely recognize their force until they've passed, and we're onto the next tableau of aberrations. Yet, as Cocina and Leon's animated displays merge fluidly, often imperceptibly, into one another, we often see what's coming, even as we can't quite acknowledge its full, impending impact. The movie is a collage of mounting despair that secretes the individual sources of its emotional force within technical and stylistic mastery and the sheer beguilement of their confluence. In short, The Wolf House gets under your skin without you even noticing.

This is no vacuous design to spook an audience of thrill-seekers, nor to have us sleeping with the lights on and checking nervously under the bed - its terrors are rooted in reality, hence their more persuasive power. The Wolf House nakedly draws upon Chile's past - indeed its recent past - of colonialism and of political turmoil in making of itself a grand, disarming metaphor. If any successful metaphor must be either subtle and insidious or boldly overt, this is the latter, and Cocina and Leon make this the very purpose of their movie with a creepily cheerful live action prologue, whose images of sunshine, sweeping open vistas and smiling young people serve like an unexpected last glance at hope and happiness before our journey into madness and darkness. These, we see, are the horrors of reality, masquerading as bright, white harmony - they are neither a tonic nor a recourse for pain and distress but the very origins of it, in their repressive falseness, their myopic banality, and their prejudiced exclusivity. No wonder we're all losing our minds.

And so The Wolf House puts up a protective shell, four walls of seeming gentility for a cruel farce of the cruelties of oppression to exploit. Pain becomes delusion, which embarks on a wayward cycle of emotional tumult before finally arriving back at pain, and at the cleansing, eye-opening clarity it engenders. A clear-eyed viewer watches on, inexplicably invested in this strange story's machinations, observing the infliction of every stage of that cycle of despair, frustratingly unable to break it, to break a hole in those four walls and let in a little light. Fat chance - only darkness even exists down here, deep in twisted delusion's rotten heart. This is a marvellous, horribly upsetting little animated movie, and an extraoardinary artistic accomplishment, one from whose descent into darkness takes a long time to walk away.

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