The reason I love Shudder so much is because you can you get your campy horror movies along with some really interesting “artsy fartsy” horror you might not see otherwise. This movie popped up on my radar from an advertisement email from Shudder, and I’m glad it did.
La Casa Lobo, or The Wolf House, isn’t easily summarized, so I’ll just steal the description from Shudder, “In this astounding stop motion animated horror, a young woman seeks refuge from religious fanatics.” Sure, that’s how it starts, but I think this description was just a ploy to get Shudder’s audience to watch it. The main character, Maria, escapes a German-Chilean cult in South Chile and finds herself making a home in the woods with a couple of pigs she raises as children. She slowly changes the pigs from animals to perfect blond-haired, blue-eyed human children while a wolf outside waits for her to screw up. We never see this wolf, but we know he’s there from his disembodied voice who occasionally calls out to Maria.
About 20 minutes into watching, it’s pretty obvious this is a metaphor for colonization. I am not nearly educated enough to make remarks on the specifics, but after reading a little bit from the most trusted source, Wikipedia, I learned there is a history of Germans making their way into South Chile. From what I saw, I got the impression this was almost an artistic retelling of that history leading up to more modern religious happenings. The religious cult, “The Colony,” the main character, Maria, is escaping in the film is based on the real-life Colonia Dignidad, or Dignity Colony. This colony, made up of Germans and Chileans, was apparently founded by Nazi Germany emigrants. So you can imagine how that establishment may have gone horribly wrong.
Even if you’re not familiar with that history or don’t understand what’s going on, the film itself is impressive and beautiful. The artists use many different mediums to create a stop-motion piece of art. At different points in the movie, the same characters and their environments take on new forms including papier-mâché, clay, and various painting techniques. A trivia blurb on IMDb confirmed my suspicions that everything was built to real-life, human-sized scale, which adds to the amazement. The best part is the combination of seeing and hearing the creations take shape; the filmmakers used sound effects of paper crumpling, charcoal drawing on the walls, and blocks of wood being placed on one another as the images change to help immerse us into the evolution of this world.
Fresh takes on what “horror” means excite me, and this film does just that. We don’t necessarily see blood and gore or have the thrill of suspense building into the release of jump scares, but the whole thing flows like a bad dream. The ever-changing aesthetic of this stop-motion horror might be new to us, but the vague nightmare-like terror is familiar. It’s even more exciting to me when something so surreal has a deeper meaning that comes across without even knowing the history. The film has enlivened me to educate myself on an interesting topic and watch the film again from a new perspective.