In total isolation, as a pandemic turns the world upside down, a house of glass rises mysteriously out of the mist and forest. Inside, a small family lives in lonely confinement, tending the plants growing within the greenhouse that protect them from the toxic air. Outside the safety of their airtight glasshouse, an airborne neurochemical shreds the memories of its victims. Mother teaches her children the simple laws of their sanctuary and how to preserve precious memories through rituals. Daughters Evie and Bee are two girls on the cusp of womanhood in a strange and violent world—one is dedicated to memory and the other wishes to forget. Together with Mother, Evie and Bee are caring for innocents Gabe and Daisy when a seductive stranger disturbs the tranquility of their sanctuary.
Glasshouse hits a rich yet complex chord in its marriage of folk horror, Gothic storytelling, and vintage science with top notes inspired by films like The Beguiled. This blending of story elements gives the film an ethereal quality, as each subgenre facet of the film creates a rare gem. The style and sensuality of Glasshouse, juxtaposed with its bleak outlook, gives the viewer the same feeling as sipping from a poisoned goblet. You’re gently lulled into the Glasshouse’s strange world of darkness.
The film has a timeless quality, as it exists outside of any defined time and space, but the pandemic setting and themes of isolation strike a note of familiarity in 2021. As a viewer, it’s natural to bring the lens of our current pandemic to a viewing of Glasshouse. It’s to the film’s credit that its own world-building is so rich that it feels timely during the current pandemic without fear of being instantly dated.
The crux of Glasshouse is its meditations on savagery and the loss of innocence. Each of the film’s characters are suspended in tension with the knowledge that “sanctuary” is a thing that can be lost or taken. As such, Glasshouse is an actor’s piece and is elevated by the intimate performances of its small ensemble. Anja Taljaard as Evie shows a sophistication and instinct beyond her years. The film turns on her performance and it’s beautifully done—a career to watch.
Glasshouse delivers a haunting siren song of a film, despite its slow pacing. The visuals and performances are an enticing blend of refined and earthy, making for a beautiful film experience overall. Its cross-genre appeal is certain to reach horror fans of every creed. It’s a beguiling watch.
Movie Score: 3/5
[Glasshouse is written by Emma De Wet and Kelsey Egan. Egan also helms the dystopian piece as director. The film stars Jessica Alexander, Adrienne Pearce, Hilton Pelser, Anja Taljaard, and Brent Vermeulen. Glasshouse enjoyed its World Premiere on August 16th at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.]