Title: Controra: House of Shadows

Also known as:
House of Shadows

Year: 2014

Genre: Drama / Horror

Language: English, Italian

Runtime: 80 min

Director: Rossella De Venuto

Writer: Rossella De Venuto

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2136847/

When Megan joins her husband, Leo, on his trip back to Italy in order to take care of family business, Megan finds herself drawn to Leo’s family home. The young couple eventually decide to stay there during the trip, even with renovations going on. It isn’t long before Megan starts seeing ghosts that reside in the family home and soon finds herself having to uncover the mystery that's hidden beneath the home.

Our thoughts:
Similar to One Eyed Films’ other acquisition, “The Innocents”, “Controra: House of Shadows” looks to utilize supernatural themes by blending them in with a less than usual style. In this case, giallo. Rossella De Venuto’s feature debut attempts to find a balance between horror and drama as she merges Western supernatural tropes in with the Italian giallo formula.

Megan and her husband, Leo, plan a trip to Italy together when Leo finds out he needs to return to his home country in order to take care of some family business. Once they arrive, Megan decides she wants to stay in Leo’s family home — a home that’s been in his family for generations and is currently undergoing renovations for historical preservation. Upon their first night, Megan sees a spirit from the past and soon she finds herself trying to uncover a long hidden mystery that resulted in the death of a young woman.

Again, much like “The Innocents”, “House of Shadows” is another movie where I find it’s tough to say definitively whether or not it was good. I see what Rossella was trying to accomplish with her movie, and there’s definitely a lot of great moments in “House of Shadows” but after it was over I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. It also didn’t help that I had to revisit the movie since I ended up forgetting a majority of the details not long after I initially watched it. What’s more, I had a hard time distinguishing the giallo influence from the standard supernatural mystery setup. The influence was certainly noticeable towards the end, but everything leading up to that felt closer to what you find a movie where our lead has to uncover a location’s mysterious past.

What might be the biggest problems “House of Shadows” suffers from is pacing and atmosphere. Both giallo and supernatural mysteries tend to have a slow build until all is revealed in the climax. “House of Shadows” instantly kicks things off when Megan (Fiona Glascott) enters the family home of her husband and is almost instantaneously met with an apparition. Granted, there is a complex plot and the movie has to get through a lot of information. However, once Megan sees that first ghost, you’re just hit with one scene after another of Megan witnessing or experiencing something, then her breaking down (usually after her trying to explain what just happened to someone and them not believing her). There’s no tension and no atmosphere because there’s an overall lack of pacing — watching “House of Shadows” is like watching a movie in chunks. Its off-puttingly choppy; instead of having one scene flowing into the next it becomes a collection of scenes and you’re just flipping from one to the next.

There’s a good story and a good mystery in “House of Shadows” but from my viewing experience, I was never drawn in due to the pacing issue and that lack of an atmosphere. Because the movie is blowing through the supernatural sequences, nothing seemed developed. The story and the characters progressed but only because that’s what needed to happen. To use the character Megan as an example: she goes from mild mannered to bordering on insanity and you don’t necessarily understand why. Beyond the fact that she’s being plagued by visions of the past. Of course these visions cause Megan to investigate even though there’s nothing at stake — there’s no motivation for her to solve this mystery. Yes, the visions are thrusting her into the story but there’s also nothing keep her there. She could have just as easily walked away from it all.

When the movie arrived to its conclusion I wanted to like “House of Shadows”, I genuinely did, but there was something that left me unsatisfied when it was over. As I said before, the characters were good, and I enjoyed the performances from the actors, and there was a solid story to the movie. The overall lack of atmosphere was the biggest hinderance for the film, but all of the issues I have with the movie seems to stem from the pacing. And perhaps it can be related to me being out of touch with today’s audience — the fast pace that “House of Shadows” could make it perfect for its intended viewers. For me though, the fast and choppy pace of the movie kept there from being any tension or atmosphere and never allowed for anything to develop properly. Ultimately, I wasn’t able to get invested in the movie’s story like I needed to. With that being said, I still can't say "House of Shadows" is a bad movie — it'll play well with the right viewer. And the right viewer is someone who enjoys a supernatural mystery that plays more on the drama rather than the tension.

Positive things:
- Great story with good characters.
- Great use of the location.
- Solid ending.
- Overall, a good looking movie.

Negative things:
- Lacked any tension or atmosphere.
- The pacing was too quick and erratic.
- Supposedly a blend of supernatural and giallo, but seemed to follow a standard supernatural formula.

Gore: 0/5
Nudity: 1/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 2.5/5
Comedy: 0/5

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